5 Qualities of Effective Spine Surgeon Leaders in Profitable Practices


Here are five qualities of effective spine surgeon leaders who make their practices more successful.
Dr. Robert Bray on spine surgeon leadership1. Teach and learn continuously. Leaders are often chosen from those who are willing to share their expertise. Regardless of age or experience, spine surgeons at the top — or on the rise — should be willing to share their technique with others and learn from their colleagues. This could be through research, surgical training or advocacy efforts.

"It takes a huge amount of time to be involved in politics and develop relationships with others, but it builds the field," says Robert S. Bray, MD, founder of DISC Sports & Spine Center in Marina del Rey, Calif. "Research isn't only for academic institutions anymore; you can participate in FDA studies, clinical outcomes studies and basic science research. Leaders show dedication to passing on their knowledge base."

It takes time and energy to cultivate these efforts, but spine surgeons who do give back to their colleagues and innovate in the field will become natural leaders.

"You are looking for the person who gives a lot back," says Dr. Bray. "You are trying to develop spine as a field. It's not just performing surgery; it's integrating all of the multidisciplinary specialties. These people have to have passion. They must love what they do and give a lot of time and effort to it."

Dr. Scott Gibbs on spine surgeon leadership2. Leave room for change and innovation.
True leadership requires room for innovation, and right now the field is moving rapidly toward outpatient surgery centers and interventional pain management. Hospitals see this as an opportunity to provide better care for their patients and partnering with surgeons ensures clinical quality and efficiency.

"If you look at the Sg2 data, the trend is toward outpatient surgery," says Scott Gibbs, MD, founder of Brain and NeuroSpine Clinic of Missouri and director of the Southeast Missouri Hospital's Brain and Spine Center, both in Cape Girardeau. "The leading and cutting-edge aspects of spine surgery lie in outpatient procedures. These are minimally invasive surgeries that also include pain management techniques. Pain management is a big part of our practice and we use pain management specialists before we offer surgery. If they still have pain after surgery, our specialists can work with them postoperatively so we don't cast them off."

In some cases, the relationship between spine surgeons and pain management physicians has been strained, but Dr. Gibbs sees both specialists becoming an important part of patients' treatment pathway in the future.

"There are some surgeons who perform surgery and afterwards they say there is nothing else they can do for their patients," says Dr. Gibbs. "We keep these patients in our practice and refer them to our pain management specialists, who can help them reduce their discomfort. We create a treatment plan for the best patient care — and that means not sending our patients away from our practice until they are better."

3. Willingness to go the extra mile. In addition to engaging in research, education and advocacy efforts, tomorrow's spine surgeon leaders will also be willing to go the extra mile for their patients and partners. Patients should have good outcomes and an even better experience at your office or surgery center.

"If you want to get into a leadership role, there are a lot of extra miles," says Dr. Bray. "For some people, that's not what they want. They will be good doctors within their structure, but another person will take over and drive the structure. If you don't go the extra mile, someone else emerges as the leader."

However, be careful not to over-extend too much. Going the extra mile is important, but going the extra 10 miles might be overdoing it, with unfortunate consequences. Don't forget about your family and personal life, which play an important part in your success.

"Find balance," says Dr. Bray. "Trying to do all of this on top of being a good doctor and surgeon can be really consuming. Balance can take many versions from spending time with family and sports, but you can't let it all consume you. If you are good, you have to be grounded and balanced. Put energy into the projects you have to stay grounded."

Dr. Bryan Oh on spine surgeon leadership4. Adapt quickly to healthcare changes.
There are many changes coming with healthcare reform, and groups that are flexible enough to adapt will survive in the future.

"I think folks who ultimately want to seek out what will happen with ObamaCare and become the first adapters will understand the system very well and they'll do very well," says Bryan Oh, MD, a spine surgeon with BASIC Spine in Orange, Calif. "They are the surgeons who understand how these changes came about. I think it's important for young surgeons to know their results and how much patient care matters. They must find a reputable way to track their own results, produce these results to their carriers and accountable care organizations. If they can demonstrate they provide good quality care, they will do very well in this model. There is a different mindset today than just getting the work done. Quality of care really matters. There are some hospitals now that want surgeons to produce patient care data for the past few years. This is a rapidly approaching reality for spine surgeons at all levels."

5. Provide good clinical quality care. Spine surgeons will not gain the respect of other surgeons until they gain the respect of their patients. They do this by making the right clinical decisions, providing good quality care and achieving great outcomes.

"One of the things surgeons are always aware of as they look at people in a leadership role is what the record of this particular doctor is in terms of quality care and patient safety," says Dennis Crandall, MD, founder of Sonoran Spine Center in Mesa, Ariz. "They want to know whether this person has a track record of taking good care of patients or keeping patient care a first priority. Those who are very good doctors are good role models and from there you can get involved in Dr. Dennis Crandallresearch and leadership, business development and other areas."

Once other surgeons have confidence in your background to provide good quality care, they can go to the next level and really engage in a relationship with their peers.

"If they reach out, they will have a broad network within the specialty because people know and trust their work," says Dr. Crandall. "This should be a social network of peers and all of these relationships expand their influence. It's hard to have a lot of confidence in a leader if there isn't a sense that at his core he is a good surgeon."

Patients and referring physicians should know you'll point them in the right direction, whether that includes surgery or not. Other providers and insurance companies will start to notice when patients are satisfied, have good outcomes and return to work quickly.

More Articles on Spine Surgery:

Dr. Marc Cohen: 4 Big Coverage Challenges for Spine Surgeons

8 Tips to Develop Spine Surgeon Marketing Strategies With High ROI

5 Steps to Turn Your Spine Program Into a Destination for Treatment

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