Spine ASC expansion, data collection & growth: Key thoughts on Laser Spine Institute's future from CEO David Pillsbury

David Pillsbury joined Laser Spine Institute in 2015 as president; recently, he took over as CEO of the national leading minimally invasive neck and back surgery company poised to take a larger role in gathering data and providing outpatient spine care in the future.

"The company has had an amazing 11 years and we are now at an interesting inflection point in our history, and in many ways in our industry," says Mr. Pillsbury. "In addition to moving to our new state-of-the-art headquarters and ASC facility in Tampa, we have launched several new initiatives that will signify a new era where Laser Spine Institute leverages our great strengths and history to innovate, collaborate and evolve more rapidly than we did in the last decade."

The company's over-arching organizational objective is to bring their brand of medicine and patient-centric experience to different regions of the country via expansion and to help more people suffering from chronic neck and back pain by expanding their treatment offerings. Traditionally, Laser Spine Institute expanded by opening de novo ASCs in various regional markets. Last year the company opened locations in Cincinnati, St. Louis and Cleveland.

Laser Spine Institute also has locations in Philadelphia, Oklahoma and Arizona, with its headquarters in Tampa. Now the company is looking to expand even further with its minimally invasive spine treatments, but instead of building new ASCs, the company plans to acquire or partner with existing providers and ASCs already located in the community.

"We are looking for the right partners in the right markets, both in our core minimally invasive surgery business and in our expansion into conservative modalities which we call Total Spine Care," says Mr. Pillsbury. "We’re most interested in markets where we know we can come in and make a difference, where we can overlay our patient-centric model into an existing practice to find a way to get even more people back to doing the things they love most."

A second facet of the company's growth is in services; Mr. Pillsbury envisions moving beyond outpatient surgery to include those conservative treatment modalities as well within a few hundred miles of the surgical facility to offer patients extended non-operative and follow-up care options.

“We offer hope to people suffering from back pain and we receive tens of thousands of phone calls from people in pain looking for relief; out of those calls, only a small percentage are surgical candidates," says Mr. Pillsbury. "We’re currently unable to serve 95 percent of those patients because we only offer surgical solutions and not everyone needs surgery. That's why we want to offer a comprehensive set of conservative treatments. We want to offer the thousands of people calling an alternative to narcotics, and a comprehensive plan to get their lives back and live pain free."

While patients travel from around the country for Laser Spine Institute procedures, Mr. Pillsbury did find patients living more than 200 miles to 300 miles away from one of their facilities are far less likely to travel for care. "If we can get facilities closer to these patients, we'll be able to help a lot more people," he says. "The fastest way is to find an existing ASC and surgeon and partner with them. By aligning with an established practice, it allows us to introduce patients to our processes and help them faster."

Finally, the company will begin leveraging the sheer volume of patients treated at Laser Spine Institute facilities to gather data, conduct research and partner with outside institutions to develop minimally invasive spine surgery protocols.

Three months ago Laser Spine Institute launched a new research and innovation initiative with Reginald Davis, MD, as director of clinical research. The company's surgeons are now involved in three clinical trials on new technology. The surgeons are also focused on developing new techniques and technology.

"Over the last decade, Laser Spine Institute was pretty inwardly focused and evolving rapidly with our core competencies. But now we have a substantial enterprise, and in this new era, it is a responsibility to contribute to the spine community under the basic premise that a rising tide lifts all boats," says Mr. Pillsbury. "We have a substantial asset in the more than 60,000 patients we've treated. This is an amazing opportunity to collect patient outcomes."

Spine surgeons are slowly moving toward a more community-minded mentality with data sharing and research. In some communities, providers saw themselves as competing colleagues, but the industry now demands more collaboration than in the past. Gathering data and reporting validated outcomes helps spine surgeons with patient selection, achieving quality outcomes and negotiating payer contracts.

"Payers make rational business decisions and they react to outcomes and economics," says Mr. Pillsbury. "The conversation with the payer only goes as well as you can clearly and empirically demonstrate your outcomes and we’ve done a poor job of that as an industry. We’ve always been a patient-first company with great patient outcomes and patient satisfaction, and now we’ll have the data to tell that story."


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