How Novant Health is using robotics, AI & technology investment for orthopedic service growth

Novant Health's orthopedic program includes 55 surgeons and musculoskeletal service providers dedicated to growing the program.

The organization has entered into unique partnerships and deployed crucial technology to optimize patient outcomes and deliver value-based care. Zachary Landry senior director of orthopedic services at Novant Health, discusses how the orthopedics line is growing and where its best opportunities are in the future.

Question: How has the orthopedics service line grown at Novant Health?

Zachary Landry: We've had a dual focus here at Novant Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine: let's deliver highly coordinated care and remarkable outcomes to patients in our medical centers and physician practices, while at the same time, grow our dynamic group of providers who offer comprehensive services across our footprint. So, we've been working hard on both fronts and now offer every subspecialty of musculoskeletal services with total joint replacement growing the fastest.

Novant Health Charlotte Orthopedic Hospital opened the doors on a brand-new facility in 2017, serving more than 6,500 patients annually as the only orthopedic specialty hospital in the region. NHCOH ranks among the top 5 percent of hospitals in the country for surgical care measures and has achieved disease specific certifications for six joint and spine programs. Novant Health Clemmons Medical Center opened in 2017 and is also a center of excellence for orthopedic procedures, serving more than 3,200 patients annually in the Greater Winston Salem Market and counting.

Our clinic footprint has also grown considerably. In 2016, our providers in North Carolina saw 106,227 patient encounters. Just two years later, that number reached 151,890 – a 43 percent increase. In Charlotte, we've more than doubled the number of orthopedic surgeons to 20 and added five additional orthopedic locations in the market since 2015. Our group now totals 55 physicians across the Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Rowan service areas.

Q: To what do you attribute the steep growth?

ZL: It's two-fold: exponential population growth and the subsequent growth in primary care providers who refer patients to orthopedic subspecialists. To meet this need of our growing communities, we're investing in bringing subspecialty care outside of city centers to fast-growing areas, such as Mint Hill and Ballantyne in the greater Charlotte market and Greensboro in the greater Winston-Salem market.

We also think our differentiating digital engagement tools play a role in our encounter growth. We've established an online scheduling feature and more than 300 patients a month are scheduling online appointments with providers across our markets.

Our investment in robotics and technology can also be attributed, enhancing our surgeons' ability to offer same-day hip or knee replacements with minimal downtime and to perform advanced procedures like MAKOplasty. In addition to this advanced care, I believe patients also recognize and value our emphasis on whole-journey care. We've added a sports psychologist who focuses on mental health's role in surgical outcomes, provide rehab and therapy services at multiple outpatient locations across our markets, and partner with EXOS, a human performance company, to drive better outcomes for sports performance and recovery.

Simply put, we know we have to meet patients where they are, on their terms, and set them up for success. Our growth strategy is aligned with making that happen.

Q: Where do you see the biggest opportunity for AI to play a bigger role in improving the patient experience?

ZL: We've expanded services and programs to deliver better outcomes for our patients, which includes optimizing a patient's health before surgery, redefining the patient experience and preparing patients to return home sooner and more safely as part of their recovery. AI helps us in all of these areas and the better the technology gets in not just collecting data, but interpreting that data effectively and making it actionable, that's the biggest opportunity I see for Al in helping us better deliver value-based care.

One example is our preoperative optimization clinic. With the assistance of AI technology, total joint navigators are able to identify patients who do not meet a defined set of criteria and route them to an optimization clinic where we can work with the patient on weight loss, better blood sugar control and smoking cessation. Our readmission rates for total joint replacements are well below national averages, in part due to this program.

So, there's absolutely an opportunity for AI to play a bigger role in improving the safety and quality of care, which is why we're partnering with Microsoft and Google in order to adopt the technology into our daily clinical work. It's a game changer for the patient experience.

Q: What are you most excited about for the future of Novant Health's orthopedics service line?

ZL: We've been focused on growing our network of multispecialty orthopedic surgeons. We're improving the safety and quality of care with AI and robotic technology. We're expanding access by not only growing our group, but through our digital engagement. So, we've set the stage. Now, we're excited about using all of these platforms that, combined, give our patients an experience that makes them really feel there's something different by coming to Novant Health. So that's our focus these next couple of years. We're proud of what we've built and now we're going to raise the bar of that patient experience and refine our value-based care model.

More articles on orthopedics:
Dr. Terry Schwab joins Ascension Via Christi Hospital
Dr. Verano Hermida joins OrthoCarolina Lincolnton – 3 insights
Dr. Armando Vidal joins Steadman Clinic

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