Thomas Errico, MD, was appointed chairman of the board of IASP. Dr. Errico practices at the New York University Lagone Medical Center and the Hospital for Joint Disease in New York City.
The group's first step is building its membership among spine patients, whom the organization hopes to reach out and connect with. IASP will likely seek patients through individual physician members, Dr. Errico says. "Even if it is just patients receiving our emails and newsletters, we want them to be aware there is an organization out there that cares about them," he says.
Here Dr. Errico expounds on why IASP was created and what the group will focus on as it becomes established among physicians and patients.
1. Bring the patient back into the care conversation. In the midst of an evolving spine surgery market, Dr. Errico and other members of ISASS felt as if no one was representing the interests of spine patients. "In a cost-saving era, nobody was speaking for spine patients," he says. IASP was formed to meet that need. "As an organization and an advocacy group, we needed to be different," he says.
2. Advocate for spine patients, surgeons and industry members. The society was created primarily to advocate on behalf of spine patients and secondarily to represent spine surgeons and other industry members, such as device makers, hospitals and insurance companies.
"We'd like to get [hospitals and insurance companies] interested in trying to help spine patients instead of helping their bottom line," Dr. Errico says. "If we are honest with ourselves, the most important thing is the patient."
3. Provide patient education and support opportunities. IASP will eventually be place for patients to share stories about surgery, discuss insurance or coverage difficulties and share common anxieties surrounding being a spine patient, Dr. Errico says. The organization has already begun fielding questions from patients about insurance denials.
4. Solve spine care coverage issues. The advocacy organization will work with other societies to address discrepancies in coverage and other issues plaguing patients.
"Getting together with other specialty societies, we can call attention to these issues as insurance companies come up with arbitrary rules," he says. "Once we get going we should have more resources to come up with guidelines, not designed by insurance companies to benefit their bottom line, but based in the best evidence available as to what should and shouldn't be paid for."
By partnering with other organizations, IASP will have the clout it needs to be a voice for patients and a motivating force for industry-wide improvements. "If anything, I'd like to see this organization, since we speak for spine patients, get professional societies and industry on their feet, acting together to have the voice be heard," he says.
5. Promote cost-effectiveness without compromising quality. IASP will also work with ISASS to promote increased cost effectiveness for spine procedures and devices. Dr. Errico and the organization will pursue other projects as IASP grows, but the focus will not stray from patients' wellbeing.
"I just want to make sure people understand that we have one focus, and that's things which benefit spine patients," he says. "We want to be unbiased, not a chauffer for the industry to get guidelines they want or for doctors to get more patients. We are doing what doctors should be doing, which is advocating for their patients."
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Dr. Thomas Errico: 5 Goals of International Advocates for Spine Patients FeaturedWritten by Heather Linder | October 12, 2012
Recently the International Society for the Advancement of Spine Surgery formed an advocacy arm, the International Advocates for Spine Patients.
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