The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced many new challenges for spine practices, but industry leaders believe those that aim to thrive post-pandemic must prepare for the future now.
Five insights on the future of spine:
1. Developing a musculoskeletal differentiated practice that provides the full spectrum of patient care will be pivotal post-pandemic, James Lynch, MD, told Becker's. "The isolated silos of practice — whether it's surgery, pain management or [physical medicine and rehabilitation] — working individually is going to change," he said. "That may not be in months, but certainly over the next three to five years. I think focusing on partnerships or investments in an ASC platform is a natural transition for this."
2. Consolidation is expected to grow across the field. Many physicians in private practice were already dealing with rising costs and declining reimbursements pre-pandemic. Smaller practices will continue to look for larger groups to share some of the financial risks, according to Frank Phillips, MD, of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush in Chicago. Additionally, strategic partnerships will better prepare practices to offer value-based care in a market that is becoming increasingly consumerized.
3. The collection of quality outcomes data is expected to have a significant effect on the spine and orthopedic surgical fields. New technology and apps have facilitated the collection of valuable patient information, enabling physicians to make more informed decisions about treatment paths and improve the quality of care.
4. COVID-19 will accelerate the trend of spine surgeries moving away from hospitals toward ASCs. Hospital limitations have been highlighted since the onset of the pandemic, with many now struggling to deal with an influx of COVID-19 cases. "Hospitals are not specifically built to be optimized for spinal care," said Michael Smith, MD, of Philadelphia-based Rothman Orthopaedic Institute. "Surgeon ownership and management of [ASCs] can build efficiencies for the physicians and the patients that are structurally impossible in a large and complicated hospital."
5. Telemedicine is here to stay. The expansion of telemedicine has had a seismic effect on spine and orthopedic practices at a time when they were most in need of a boost. The technology has allowed surgeons to expand their reach and see patients across state lines while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Patients will continue to see telemedicine services after the pandemic.