Dr. Lawrence Lenke: The big opportunity for innovation in spine patient safety

Written by Laura Dyrda | May 06, 2019 | Print  |

Lawrence Lenke, MD, surgeon-in-chief of NewYork-Presbyterian Och Spine Hospital and co-chair of the Safety in Spine Surgery Summit, discusses the culture of patient safety in spine and where the best organizations are headed.

Question: What are the biggest challenges for spine surgeons to develop a culture of patient safety in their operating rooms? What do they need to do differently?

Dr. Lawrence Lenke: I think the biggest challenge is team engagement. All surgeons want to practice safe spine surgery for their patients, but it is only when the entire OR team embraces this philosophy that true change and improvement can occur.

Q: How can surgeons become advocates for patient safety within value-based care models?

LL: I believe it will actually be easier for spinal surgeons to embrace a safety culture when value-based medicine is adopted versus the current pay for service model. In value-based care, all components of the patients' continuum from presentation to recovery will be managed with an eye towards safety rather than strictly operative volume.

Q: Where do you see the biggest opportunity for surgeons to innovate within patient safety?

LL: I think the biggest innovation will occur with the promotion of specialized care teams for spinal surgery patients, especially in the operating rooms. Spinal surgery is a challenging specialty of surgery for the entire OR team including not only the surgeons, but also the surgical technicians, scrub and circulating nurses and other of the ancillary staff. Cardiac surgery founded this model several decades ago, and when you ask those who scrub complex spinal cases, they often state that what is required of their skills and efforts is much greater than those taking care of cardiac patients.

The entire spine surgery community needs to spread this word so others, including hospital administrators and those with administrative responsibility in the operating rooms, understand and appreciate this specialized need.

Q: What inspires you to make your spine practice better every day?

LL: I am inspired to make my patient's experience better each and every day by the patients that I have just treated. Seeing someone go through the spectrum of care from the preoperative, intraoperative, early post-surgery hospitalization and through long term follow-up makes me appreciate how much my, and all of those involved in their care, mean to their health and well-being. It is an awesome and rewarding but also quite serious responsibility.

More articles on spine surgery:
Dr. Brian Gantwerker: Spinal fusions, 3D printing and the future of spine surgery
How spine surgeons maintain high productivity levels
6 spine, neurosurgeon moves in April

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