'The best decision I made in 2015': 4 spine surgeons discuss

Anuja Vaidya -   Print  |

Here four spine surgeons discuss the best decisions they made this year.

Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. We invite all spine surgeon and specialist responses.

Next week's question: If you could change one thing about the current healthcare climate, what would it be and why?


Please send responses to Anuja Vaidya at avaidya@beckershealthcare.com by Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 5 p.m. CST.


Question: What is the best decision you made this year?


Theodore Belanger, MD, Spine & Scoliosis Surgeon, Texas Back Institute, Plano: This year's best decision was to ask for all of support I would need from my community in order to provide two patients from the impoverished nation of Ethiopia the opportunity to come to Dallas for life-altering surgery. One with severe scoliosis, and the other with severe kyphosis from advanced ankylosing spondylitis. I wasn't sure such a thing could ever be done, because it would require so many things to go right, and it would take the combined interest and effort of almost too many people (and entities) to imagine it possible.  


I decided to start asking to see where it would get shut down. But then, an amazing thing happened. I kept being told "yes" and "we're in" and "anything you need."  Rick Hodes of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee was able to find two appropriate patients in need, get the necessary visas for travel and deliver them to a host family in the Dallas area. Medical Center of Plano consented to allow me to perform the surgeries free of charge from the hospital perspective and agreed to an open-ended stay for the patients until other arrangements could be made or travel back to Ethiopia was possible. Staff at MCP stayed long hours, above and beyond, to help with our special cases.  


My partners and colleagues at the Texas Back Institute provided tremendous assistance in the workup and planning of the surgeries, and Dr. Andrew Simpson scrubbed in on the more challenging case of the two, free of charge. TBI also provided administrative and legal support, making sure all appropriate documents were on hand at the time of hospital admission. Medtronic provided the spinal implants free of charge. Globus Medical provided interbody cages free of charge. Misonix provided the use of the ultrasonic bone scalpel free of charge. Neuropro provided spinal cord monitoring for the surgeries free of charge. Anesthesia services were free and postoperative consultants were free. ICU stay was also free. The Ethiopian community in Dallas visited the patients during their recovery almost every day, bringing gifts, familiar food and familiar language to make them feel at home. Their story was featured on the local evening news twice, and they made the front page of a local newspaper.  


Overall, the outpouring of support and generosity has been humbling and most appreciated, to say the least. Without a community of businesses, hospitals, healthcare providers and other good people coming together to do something good, such an inspiring thing could never have happened. I am so glad that I decided to start asking for the help I would require to provide our Ethiopian guests with the surgery they so desperately needed. It was the best decision that I made all year.


William Taylor, Director, Spine Surgery, Vice Chairman, Division of Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Diego: To continue working on projects, other than surgical cases, including resident education, conference planning and research. These have made my practice better.


Brian R. Gantwerker, MD, The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: Utilizing an integrated eFax solution in my EMR has been tremendously beneficial. It has cut down on ink and paper and also decreased response time to request for physical therapy and prescriptions. It also has facilitated accurate placement of documents into patient records.  


Richard Kube, MD, Founder, CEO, Prairie Spine & Pain Institute, Peoria, Ill.: We moved into the bundled payment arena. Though there has not been a ton of traffic yet, I believe this is where the market is headed and we are poised to negotiate well into the future.  The process was also valuable as it forced us to analyze costs and really break down all components of care delivery on a more granular level than we had done before. We found areas to improve efficiency and cost. We are now providing greater value to the patients that we serve.


More articles on spine:
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Florida Board of Pharmacy works to help patients get pain medication — 5 notes
North American Partners to establish a pain division in Michigan — 5 takeaways

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