How Twin Cities Orthopedics' physician president is thinking about staffing, AI and more

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Christopher Meyer, MD, is optimistic about the future of Edina, Minn.-based Twin Cities Orthopedics. Recently named president of the practice, he's strategizing about ways the group can grow in the coming year.

Dr. Meyer discussed his plans for Twin Cities Orthopedics from physician and staff retention to leveraging artificial intelligence.

Note: This conversation was edited for clarity and length.

Question: What are your top three goals in your new role?

Dr. Christopher Meyer: The obvious one is to maintain the patient care and the quality of patient care that we've done for a while in the environment that we're in, especially because things cost more money. 

Second, our growth is really key for us. So we continue to try to expand our access to our clinics. We grow by physicians more organically, our urgent care growth has been really important to us and then we've got the Orthopedic Institute opening in the next couple of months, which we're very excited about.

Third is finance and overhead. Obviously, everything's gotten more expensive in the last few years so that's affecting all aspects of our business from the standpoint of employees and buying goods. That's another area that we really want to be focused on — trying to see that we can get the most value for our money.

Q: How are you strategizing and thinking about costs and revenues while making sure patient costs aren't too expensive?

CM: You have to start with the reimbursement side. We had big inflation, and now you're going back to the payers. And we're looking for increases, which we've been able to get sometimes. Then you really have to look at everything; one of the biggest areas is coding. We're looking at artificial intelligence in that area. For our services, we're looking at where we're doing well, where we need improvements and where we can find efficiencies.

Q: What are some of the top challenges ahead, and how are you planning to address them?

CM: Our biggest challenge has been overhead in the last few years. I think that the first way we address it is by the contracts. Increasing size decreases overhead because you're splitting up the services that are done in your MSO by a bigger number, and we've added 24 physicians in the last few months, and that's really going to help us because we really didn't have to add much in the way of administration for all of them. We were able to recruit 10 rheumatologists to join our group, and they've really filled up a lot of our existing clinic space, and that's extra revenue. So it is really a fun expansion without having to build more buildings or do anything too much different than what we already do.

Q: How else do you see this practice growing in 2024?

CM: In 2024, one of the sites which is opening is in Plymouth, Minn. Obviously that's a big site that we're recruiting for with all those different physicians. The most consistent growth for us is to hire more orthopedic surgeons to utilize all of our sites. The urgent care openings are also equally as important. The urgent care really gives us a lot of access to direct patient referrals. Our partnership with the Vikings becomes very important because our name recognition at urgent care has become well known. New patients walk through those doors and those new patients are growing and that's really been a big growth factor. We have a number of standalone urgent care centers right now that have physical therapy onsite and a provider and they have been really a great access point for direct referrals for us.

Q: What's worked when it comes to staff and physician recruiting?

CM: We keep them busy. For the physicians, we spend a lot of time looking at metrics and looking at where we can put a body and have that person be busy from the beginning. A busy physician is typically a happy physician. We also let everyone know that the future is bright for TCO from the standpoint of growth. It has been a hard couple of years from an overhead standpoint, but I do think that the growth in the number of physicians that we have, the growth in regards to our newer contracts are really going to offset that. 

Q: How do you see the role of management service organizations evolving in orthopedics in the next three to five years?

CM: We're really looking for those efficiencies that we can do more with less. Artificial intelligence I think is going to become a big player, especially in coding. Our management services organization continues to look at other smaller independent groups that we can help in every group that we can help. Obviously it helps with the revenue of the management services and decreases the overhead for everyone. So we continue to onboard new, smaller groups, and that's been kind of one of the focuses of Revo, which is our MSO.

Q: Can you talk more about how AI helped with coding at TCO? Where can it be strengthened in orthopedics?

CM: So right now our AI program is looking at really only two codes — total hips and total knees. But what AI is to do is to go into two or three different systems and pull all the appropriate data rather than someone manually pulling that out and putting it into a billing form. Right now they're able to do many more codes per hour. But what we need is to expand past just those two codes. We've met with a startup company, and we're going to work on exploring some other areas for them so that we can actually roll this out into more areas than just total knees and total hips.

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