Price transparency, value-based care & bundles: Altair Health CEO aims to drive change in spine

Written by Alan Condon | October 31, 2019 | Print  |

After donating a kidney to his father in 2002, Kyle Nelson had his "healthcare epiphany" and traded the banking sector for the healthcare industry with a goal of improving patient experiences and outcomes.

Mr. Nelson left his position as assistant vice president of client services at Wells Fargo Corporate Trust and served in several leadership roles in the orthopedic industry including CEO at The Orthopedic Clinic Association in Phoenix and Colorado Springs (Colo.) Orthopaedic Group.

After discussions with Altair Health in Morristown, N.J., a physician-managed health system dedicated to spine care, Mr. Nelson joined as CEO on July 1. 

"Having done a lot of growth strategy in healthcare previously, this was that and more," Mr. Nelson said. "They sold me on the overall vision of what they were hoping to achieve with the expansion to truly be a thought leader in spine care, stroke care and neuro."

Altair Health opened its first two facilities — a medical center in Morristown, N.J., and an ASC in Florham Park, N.J. — this summer, with a new center opening at the Jersey Shore in the third quarter of 2020.

Two new neurosurgeons, Edward Scheid, MD, and Louis Noce, MD, joined the health system in October with more physicians set to follow suit in early 2020. 

As a spine-focused health system, Mr. Nelson believes Altair Health has a significant advantage in providing spine care and driving patient outcomes over other hospitals and health systems that treat a broader spectrum of conditions.

"Altair Health can target specific areas that we are experts in. We can be more nimble, make decisions faster and truly drive initiatives that will impact the community for the greater good," Mr. Nelson said.

"There are a lot of like-minded organizations like Altair Health across the country. One of the things we would like to do is create lines of communication with those like-minded organizations to truly lead in this space," he added.

Altair Health participated in the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement and BPCI Advanced programs and is currently developing internal initiatives for the commercial bundle space.

The emerging trend of value-based care will have a seismic impact on the spine community and Mr. Nelson is aiming to interpret what that term really means for patients and providers.

"I would like to sharpen the pencil and truly define what [value-based care] is in our marketplace. Our physicians are thought leaders not only as skilled surgeons, but also when it comes to their dedication to quality outcomes and care," he said. "We want to have a seat at that table in 2020 to make sure we are helping define what that is for our patients."

Mr. Nelson views price transparency as somewhat of a double-edged sword but believes that the positives will ultimately outweigh the negatives.

"As we see payment reform evolving over the last two decades or so, we see the higher deductible plans taking place, which is requiring consumers to be more savvy with their healthcare dollars," he said. "When we put our consumer hat on, we want to make sure we're getting the best quality for the best price."

"Will there be some potential opportunities to provide savings for the consumer? Absolutely. I think as you see the transition from more inpatient to outpatient cases — and there's a lot of data showing the efficacy of outpatient procedures — that's going to be increasingly on the conscience of the consumer," Mr. Nelson added.

He expects pricing behavior to be the next evolution borne out of price transparency and is planning for Altair Health to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to pricing models.

"If we can be on the forefront of that and be more transparent in our pricing model, whether it be through a consumer or employer-based bundle, I think that's going to be better for all parties involved," Mr. Nelson said.

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Stryker receives FDA clearance for 3D-printed expandable interbody device — 4 things to know

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