Spine Disorders: A Problem that is Growing Older

Right now spine problems, such as back pain are a leading cause for medical care and hospitalization in the United States. Add to the current demand on the health care system the number of people nearing retirement and the need for innovative improvements in spine patient care is made obvious. Consider that during 2006 the first Baby Boomers celebrated their 60th birthdays. The U.S. Census Bureau's statistics offer a staggering dose of reality. They reported that almost 8,000 Baby Boomers turned 60 each day during 2006. That was about 330 people nearing retirement every hour! (2)

The Future is "Innovation - Not Stagnation"

We are not saying that doctor-owned specialty hospitals are the cure for the current and expected health care problems. So much more is involved. Granted, change is needed and specialty hospitals provide a valuable service that has proven to benefit patients. Many prestigious medical societies endorse specialty hospitals such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

Doctor William Plested, the AMA's President-Elect stated, "Specialty hospitals give patients more choice, forcing existing hospitals to innovate to keep attracting new patients." Dr. Plested further said, "As we strive to provide patients with the highest quality care, innovation - not stagnation - is the way of the future." (3)

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As quoted from an AAOS published position statement, "Specialty hospitals provide high quality services in the communities in which they are established." The AAOS presented the following caveat to their statement: that patient selection not be based on financial criteria and doctors should disclose to patients when they have an ownership interest in a specialty hospital.(4)

Quelling the Concerns of Critics

What about certain concerns raised by some critics? Will doctor-owned specialty hospitals increase health care costs and drive patients away from full-service hospitals? The CMS found no evidence of this happening. To the contrary, the CMS found specialty hospitals provide patients with a high-level of quality service. In addition, no full-service hospitals have been forced to close their doors because of specialty hospitals.

What about fears that a doctor who has a financially rewarding interest in a specialty hospital will handpick patients to produce the highest revenues? First, many doctors who own a specialty hospital continue to treat patients at traditional full-service hospitals. Second, doctors give patients a choice about where they prefer to have a particular procedure performed -- for example, the traditional full-service hospital or the specialty hospital. Patients are choosing doctor-owned specialty hospitals because of the unique advantages these hospitals offer.

The bottom line in this issue is not the doctor's financial gain, but the quality of health care patients receive. Whether you are a friend or foe of the doctor-owned specialty hospital issue, these specialty hospitals continue to prove to be good medicine.


  1. Doctor-Owned Specialty Hospitals, Mark B. McClellan, MD, PhD, Administrator, CMS. Senate Finance Committee. May 18, 2006. http://www.cms.gov/apps/media/press/release.asp?Counter=1860
  2. U.S. Census Bureau Newsroom. January 3, 2006. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/
  3. AMA: Specialty hospitals promote quality and competition to benefit patients. January 25, 2006. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/399/nac-specialty-hospitals.pdf
  4. Position Statement: Specialty Hospitals. December 2004. http://www.aaos.org/
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