Society fosters the delivery of quality spine care
In July 1985, in Laguna Niguel, Calif., leaders from the American Lumbar Spine Association and the American College of Spine Surgeons met to combine their two groups into one spine society. Through dedication and compromise, these founding members of the North American Spine Society (NASS) laid the foundation for NASS as a multidisciplinary medical organization dedicated to fostering the highest quality, evidence-based, and ethical spine care through education, research, and advocacy.
NASS President Ray M. Baker, MD
From the beginning, NASS has worked diligently to promote that principle by keeping its members abreast of the changes that are occurring in the field. Each year, the NASS annual meeting—its cornerstone educational event—attracts spine specialists from more than 50 countries. They meet to explore the latest in spine education, research, and innovation. The curriculum includes podium presentations, symposia, papers and posters, special interest group discussions, and technical exhibitions. This year for the first time, NASS will be offering podcasts on various lectures from their annual meeting, enabling what Dr. Baker calls “learning at a distance.”
“We’ve made a big push to deliver educational content more innovatively,” Dr. Baker said. “We want to ensure that spine care providers who are unable to attend the annual meeting stay up-to-date on the latest spine innovations, techniques, and treatments.”
Another recent educational initiative is the Spine Education Research Center (SERC). SERC is a state-of-the-art training and meeting facility located at NASS headquarters in Burr Ridge, Ill., that allows medical professionals to increase their proficiency in hands-on-surgical, minimally invasive, and injection techniques, and physical rehabilitation. It includes a 3,800-square foot bio-skills lab and a tiered auditorium/classroom that seats more than 100 persons and features the latest in audiovisual technology.
Champion of quality spine care
Providing quality spine care also involves understanding the value of that care, believes Dr. Baker. To do this, NASS is educating its members on what value means and how it is measured, and implementing value into its guidelines.
Given the state of the current healthcare environment and the “unsustainable” rate of increase in the cost of medical care, much discussion has focused on bending the cost curve, Dr. Baker says.
“I think increasingly the ability to do what we believe is best for the patient will also involve weighing the cost of treatment,” he explained. “We need to stay ahead of that and do the research now to prove the value of the treatments we perform so that patients will continue to have access to them.”
He added, “We’re starting to stimulate these studies by providing research dollars to people who are producing projects for value. Not only are we implementing value, but we are promoting its research through grants.”
Also as part of his value theme, Dr. Baker has continued the push to develop an outcomes registry—an effort begun by former NASS president Richard D. Guyer, MD. In 2009, NASS invited 11 different spine care–related societies, including the AAOS, to work together in creating a multisociety outcomes registry that could be used by all spine stakeholders.
“Putting a registry together is challenging,” Dr. Baker said. “The AAOS experience in establishing the American Joint Replacement Registry has been immensely instructive to us.”
Registry data are currently being collected and NASS hopes to launch a pilot registry by the end of the year.
In 2009, NASS also took the lead in building bridges and strengthening alliances among the spine care stakeholder societies. They hosted a Spine Summit that was attended by leadership from the 11 spine care–related societies and resulted in the development of several key consensus areas.
“We held our second meeting this year, providing a forum for societies that would normally not meet together. We discussed how to work together on common issues, such as coding and reimbursement,” said Dr. Baker. “NASS has been successful in this effort because we are a multidisciplinary society.”
NASS has also made great strides in the areas of ethics and professionalism, including the creation of policies on disclosure and appropriate recusal at the board level, which, according to Dr. Baker, are the most stringent of any professional medical association.
A global future
Increasingly, NASS is being viewed as an international spine society. It has strong ties with a number of international spine organizations and plans to increase its reach as other countries look to NASS to provide educational content and support.
“We can help by providing educational content to local or regional spine societies that may not have a well-developed infrastructure for spine care education,” said Dr. Baker. “We’re committed to our mission of fostering the delivery of quality spine care.”
For more information on NASS, visit www.spine.org
For a virtual tour of SERC, visit www.spine.org/360/nass.html
Maureen Leahy is assistant managing editor for AAOS Now. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org