How competition among spine surgeons is evolving

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Spine surgery competition is evolving this year thanks to changes in workforce saturation and the addition of new spine centers.

Two surgeons recently spoke with Becker's about how competition among spine surgeons and practices is evolving.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: How is competition in the spine industry evolving in 2024?

James Harrop, MD. Professor of Neurological Surgery and Orthopedic Surgery and Division Chief for Spine and Peripheral Nerve Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia): This is a great question and I think it cannot be answered globally for the United States. I presently work in the Philadelphia region where referral patterns are very controlled by healthcare systems as well as [where] the number of spine surgeons is limited. Thus, I do not believe there is truly a competitive environment of surgeons trying to convince patients to do X versus Y. Rather, the present healthcare environment is to treat the patient with the best healthcare outcomes in their local healthcare setting. I often refer patients back to initial spine surgeons when seeing them as second opinions because I believe it is in the patient’s best interest to be treated and managed with physicians that understand their overall health status. Thus, in general, I would say in an undersaturated spine surgeon market there is not significant market competition.

Eric Nottmeier, MD. Professor of Neurosurgery and Vice Chair of Clinical Operations in the Department of Neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.): Competition in the spine field has continued to evolve over the past decade. The development of spine centers using a multidisciplinary approach is one strategy that has been successful. Spine centers can provide quick access to patients requesting appointments. This allows the patient to enter that system and immediately undergo multimodal conservative therapy with [physical medicine and rehabilitation] and pain management physicians, as well as physical therapists. This all occurs under the same roof. If patients fail conservative therapy, then they can be seen prudently by the spine surgeons in that particular spine center. This model of care is desirable to patients as the process is easily initiated on the patient’s end by a single phone call or referral with most of the care being accomplished at a single location with internal communication between providers.

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