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How one organization expanded orthopedic access without burning out their physicians

May 28, 2019

    Every weekend, countless young athletes and weekend warriors find themselves with a sports injury in need of a quick fix. As the demand for accessible orthopedic care continues to grow, many health systems are starting to offer services in an on-demand, orthopedic urgent care center.

    What do consumers want from orthopedic care?

    Though orthopedic urgent care centers offer patients more convenient and specialized care, providers are often challenged with meeting physician staffing standards for these centers. Avoiding physician burnout while maintaining the advanced service offerings that patients demand is a leading challenge at many orthopedic urgent care centers.

    Here's how one organization took a unique approach to expanding orthopedic access without burning out their physicians—and grew their surgical volumes by 42% in five years.

    Ortho immediate care sites meet patient demand for convenient, specialized care with sports medicine PCPs

    Patients, many of whom choose orthopedic urgent care for rapid access to specialists, often get frustrated when they are just X-rayed and then scheduled for an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon for several weeks later.

    However, by staffing immediate care sites with physicians who have additional orthopedic training (in this case, PCPs with sports medicine fellowships), the pseudonymously named Jean Grey Health System is able to provide the convenient, specialized care patients are seeking from an orthopedic urgent care clinic. As opposed to advanced practitioners, sports medicine PCPs have the certification to provide non-surgical treatment, such as administering injections and blocks.

    Musculoskeletal continuity clinic's staffing model minimizes physician burnout in the urgent care setting

    Jean Grey Health System's musculoskeletal continuity clinic provides an intermediate step between its immediate care sites and its orthopedic surgeons. The result is comprehensive coverage of the care continuum, with surgeons and non-operative physicians able to work at the top of their license.

    The health system's sports medicine PCPs are technically staffed at both the immediate care sites and the musculoskeletal continuity clinic, but they see more patients in the former while they are building their musculoskeletal continuity clinic patient panel. As their panel grows, physicians see fewer patients at the immediate care sites. This staffing model allows the health system to consistently provide convenient orthopedic care without burning out the physicians who are staffed at the immediate access clinic, all while growing and retaining a loyal patient base.

    Continuity clinic's added benefit: Freeing up orthopedic surgeon capacity

    The continuity clinic model has an additional benefit for physician engagement beyond reducing burnout in the immediate care setting. By keeping patients who don't need surgery out of the surgery queue, the musculoskeletal continuity clinic allows orthopedic surgeons to spend more time in the OR instead of caring for a more generalist case mix.

    Considerations for replicating this model

    A musculoskeletal continuity clinic like Jean Grey Health System's is an effective strategy to offload cases when surgeons are working at their maximum capacity. Surgeons who are not operating at maximum capacity may want to hold on to their non-surgical cases, making it difficult to win their buy-in for this type of model.


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