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Legacy’s Spine Center offers more than surgery for patients with back pain

Modern Healthcare Magazine, The Advisory Board

March 24, 2014

Legacy’s Spine Center was featured as Modern Healthcare’s cover story this month for its comprehensive approach to back pain. The article highlights Legacy’s employee program, which was started in 2012 to cut down on the number of unnecessary surgeries after Legacy’s Pain Management Center found that many of their patients were there following unsuccessful back surgeries.  It requires employees seeking elective spinal surgery undergo a pre-surgical assessment, including visits with a physical therapist and psychologist. This approach has nearly cut spinal surgeries in half from 2011 to 2013 and because of its success Legacy is looking to expand it to non-employee patients.  It has also improved outcomes by treating patients with more conservative forms of treatment such as physical therapy, pain management, psychological care.

The idea is "not to eliminate surgery, but to (help patients) get to the right surgery," says Katie O'Neill, Legacy's director of clinical and support services.

Patients often have unrealistic expectations about spine surgery, said Katie O'Neill, Legacy Good Samaritan’s director of clinical and support services. She said they may think, “I'm going to get my spine surgery and in three weeks I'm going to walk normally.” But, she added, “that's not what's going to happen.”

Legacy's employee program initially was resisted by surgeons and patients, but many now praise it, she said. Legacy Health is one of a number of hospitals and health systems around the country that are rethinking how they provide spine care, given the mounting research evidence that too many Americans are undergoing unnecessary spinal procedures and experiencing mixed outcomes. The steep jump in spine surgeries in the late 1990s and 2000s has prompted many health insurers to tighten coverage policies for particular indications and procedures, particularly spinal fusion for degenerative disc disease in the lower back. Studies have found that non-surgical treatments are more likely to help these patients.

To read the rest of the story click here.