Dr. Bryan Kelly's 'strategic vision of responsible growth' for Hospital for Special Surgery

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Bryan Kelly, MD, New York City-based Hospital for Special Surgery's new president and incoming chief executive officer, has big plans as its first surgeon to hold the top leadership position.

A phased transition will bring Dr. Kelly into the CEO role later in 2023. The process is already underway as his successor, Douglas Padgett, MD, was named HSS' next surgeon-in-chief and medical director.

Dr. Kelly spoke with Becker's about his leadership and growth plans for HSS.

Note: This conversation was lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What's your vision for HSS as a leader in the coming year? How will you make that vision reality?

Dr. Bryan Kelly: At HSS, we pride ourselves on being able to provide extremely high-quality and high-value orthopedic and musculoskeletal care for patients. My vision involves a continued focus on those core values of excellence in patient care, academic programming, research and innovation. Innovation is especially important to me as a surgeon because it is the pillar that really allows HSS to stand apart from other providers as the preeminent thought leader in the field of orthopedics. 

My vision for HSS in the coming year also means asking the right questions about the larger healthcare environment and HSS' place within it. How can we maintain our focus while simultaneously building our future? How can we effectively combat all the challenges facing not just HSS but all healthcare systems right now? Whether it's the consolidation of hospitals with healthcare systems or the consolidation of practices with private equity, how are we at HSS going to make sure that we're expanding access to quality musculoskeletal care while maintaining quality? I have a strategic vision of responsible growth for HSS that is focused on meeting the needs of more patients in more places. That includes further expansion in the tristate area and in Florida, opportunities in new markets as well as collaborations within our alumni network.

Q: What growth opportunities are in the works, especially in the Florida market?

BK: Broadly, what we're looking for in Florida are locations where the fragmentation of orthopedic options means there might be an opportunity for us to come in and elevate the quality of care. HSS Florida in West Palm Beach opened before the pandemic hit. It was a challenging time to open up a new site, but we think that's a great market opportunity. In addition, we recently established a collaboration with Naples Community Hospital to build a state-of-the-art facility offering outpatient and inpatient services, including a jointly owned and operated ambulatory surgery center, and imaging and rehabilitation services. At the moment, we are actively seeking out strategic partnerships in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami areas as well.

Q: What are the most pressing concerns for physicians at HSS today? How do you plan to address them as president and, later, CEO? 

BK: The pressing issues for HSS clinicians are similar to the issues facing clinicians across the country: declining reimbursements, less control over third-party payers, increasing costs to provide services and this massive migration from inpatient to outpatient surgery. One exciting initiative that we have underway involves increasing our capacity to do more high-quality ambulatory orthopedic surgery cases in more places through the development of an ASC network. This approach will allow us to address some of the challenges associated with the migration from inpatient to outpatient surgery while making sure that outpatient surgeries are delivered in the safest possible way. New models like this one can help us to increase economic alignment across our various constituencies while allowing us to maintain our competitiveness advantage.

Q: One issue affecting all areas of healthcare is staffing shortages. How do you plan to approach staff recruitment?

BK: Nurses, nursing advanced care providers and surgical techs are absolutely critical to our ability at HSS to provide high-quality care to patients. Like other hospital systems, we've been affected by these staffing shortages, although probably to a slightly lesser degree. 

An aggressive recruitment effort is currently underway at HSS, and we've made significant progress over the last six months. Our general philosophy is that providing an array of opportunities for advancement is the best way to recruit top talent. For example, we offer our own residency program for nurses and we’re constantly looking for new ways to create professional ladders for clinical staff across the organization. 

Q: What innovations in spine and orthopedics interest you the most right now? What can we expect from HSS in that area? 

BK: Innovation is something that's in the DNA of HSS. We have 140 surgeons here, all of whom are focused within specific subspecialties. That provides us with a lot of data that we can use to come up with innovative devices and techniques as well as new pathways to address complex care. Integrating augmented and virtual reality systems into both our training and live surgery is a huge innovation area that we're excited about. I'm also very energized by some of the more streamlined processes we're developing for patients via our technology infrastructure.

Q: What key lessons from your work as a surgeon and physician leader will you carry into your new roles?

BK: HSS is a unique place. We've got incredibly talented clinicians, and over the years HSS has developed as a brand that stands on its own. As we move forward, increased alignment between physicians and the hospital is going to be critical to our success. 

One of the things I'm hoping will allow me to do well in my new role is the fact that I take care of patients and I'm in the operating room. I'll continue to do that on a limited basis so I can maintain strong connectivity to my fellow clinicians. I believe this will give me valuable perspective as we all work together to chart a course for the future. 

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