Editor's Column: Championship Team

By William Sullivan posted 07-06-2017 01:51 PM

As I watched the NBA Championship this year, I realized (again) the importance of teamwork! Most of us work in settings where we rely on other members of our team to function at our highest level. Whether we work with other physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, therapists, medical assistants, surgical techs, researchers, chiropractors, nurses, schedulers or others (no offense intended by including those I missed as “others”), we strive to be champions in our professional lives. As this year’s NBA Finals showed, adding additional superstars to a team can further elevate, to an almost unfair level. While we aren’t all competing against each other, we are striving for the best outcomes, best business practice and best reputation.

As spine care specialists, we also strive to be resilient. We do our best to bounce back and overcome adversity. This can come from a less-than-ideal outcome, or other “bad press.” Some of this was also more evident during the NBA Finals. The medical issues of head coach Steve Kerr of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors have been well documented. While we don’t have the medical records and don’t wish to speculate, Coach Kerr has been vocal about his condition. While a rare complication, it is a horrible outcome, and one that has dramatically changed his view on spine surgery. SpineLine will be providing future information from the Public Affairs Committee of NASS regarding ways to handle media requests and other issues related to speaking to media and patients, including how to speak about public figures who are not a patient.

In a changing health care environment, spine specialists also must be resilient as we navigate ongoing changes in the health care system (at least here in the United States). This issue of SpineLine includes several articles addressing these issues. Value in Spine Care features an article titled, “Bundled Payments in Spine Surgery: What Does the Practicing Clinician Need to Know?” from Andrew Pugely, MD, and Susan Odum, PhD. The lessons learned from those who have experienced bundled payments for joint replacement may be helpful to spine care providers.

The Socioeconomics & Policy section has several articles addressing current Coding, Regulatory Policy Perspective, and Advocacy issues. “Medicare Cuts in Reimbursement for Plain Film, Computed Radiography Services” from Coding Committee Co-Chair Dale Blasier, MD, looks at reimbursement for radiology services that many spine specialists provide directly from their offices. NASS Health Policy Council Director Dave O'Brien, MD, provides his views to an issue raised in an earlier Presidential Message regarding “RVU vs Dollar: Which is Best for Physician Compensation?” Many of us are compensated by different methods, some RVU based (which also may be variable in format) and others as a portion of dollars collected (minus overhead, etc.). This column provides some food for thought regarding the pros/cons of each.

Advocacy Committee members Charles Cho, MD, Jordan Abushawish, MPP, and Madeline Kroll discuss the ongoing issue of going “From Affordable Care Act to American Health Care Act” in the Advocacy column. At the time of this writing, the measure was on hold due to the horrific attack on members of Congress and staffers during a baseball practice in the DC area. Also on hold was a vote on Medical Liability Reform. I hope everyone was able to contact your elected representatives regarding this important legislation. Also see a recap of Advocacy's highly successful annual Fly-In, where NASS members directly engage with members of Congress in "NASS Advocates Gather on Capitol Hill" by John Finkenberg, MD, and Jordan Abushawish.

From a broader global perspective, Dr. Todd Wetzel provides a summary of his travels as NASS President in his column, From the Desk of the President. He certainly has been a wonderful ambassador for NASS as we expand our involvement in spine care beyond North America.

Next, Allan Brook, MD, et al provide an Invited Review on “Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology Techniques for the Treatment of Spinal Tumors.” I found this article to be very helpful in identifying various conditions for which these interventions may be indicated.

In Literature Review Commentary, Jonathan Grauer, MD, and Blake Shultz summarize and comment on a study comparing orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, "Thirty-Day Perioperative Outcomes in Spinal Fusion by Specialty within the NSQIP Database."

While planning for the Annual Meeting is in full swing, we hope it's not too late to consider the Summer Spine Meeting in San Diego, CA, scheduled in July. NASS News provides details on Summer Spine, the Annual Meeting and additional information on interesting NASS initiatives and activities.

I hope everyone’s summer is enjoyable. Of course, I close with a special thank you to all of the contributors, section editors and especially NASS staff for their dedication in providing another edition of SpineLine. As always, we are receptive to any comments or suggestions that will help make a difference...

*This column originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of SpineLine. To read more from that issue, click here.