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Orthopedic Group’s Plan Reduces Patient’s Wait

By DANIEL CONNOLLY

THE PHYSICIANS GROUP OrthoMemphis P.C. has a new program: it makes an orthopedic specialist available during normal business hours Monday through Friday to see patients on short notice. Patients who call ahead can see a doctor the same day or the following day.

The idea might seem obvious, but it runs counter to standard practice at orthopedic clinics, said Dr. Randall L. Holcomb, president and managing partner of the group.  “For the most part, orthopedic surgeons book their clinics up days or weeks in advance,” he said.  That leads to frustration for patients who have broken bones or other problems that require the immediate services of an orthopedist, a specialist in diseases and injuries of the muscular and skeletal systems.

“Our good customers called and said ‘Can I send you some business?’ and it seems like we made it as hard as we could make it to facilitate that happening,” he said.  For several years, the clinic experimented with other scheduling methods before starting its new program, called Orthostat, late last year.  It began promoting the program to other physicians groups earlier this month and is still fine-tuning it, Holcomb said.

The clinic’s leaders hope that the program will help grow the business by providing a higher quality of service to patients.

The group has annual revenues of about $26 million, chief executive officer Ken E. Beasley said.  He wouldn’t release profit figures, but said they’re enough to cover the $160,000 the group plans to spend to build a separate clinic for Orthostat on the first floor of the Briarcrest Professional Building in East Memphis.  The clinic is also working with Baptist Memorial Health Care to apply for a state permit for a new $1.2 million magnetic resonance imaging device in the clinic’s offices.  Baptist would own the device and the clinic would rent several hours of time on it per day.

PHYSICIANS

The clinic plans to spend a total of $3.2 million over five years on the rented time, personnel and related costs, Beasley said.  Clinic leaders hope the arrangement will be more convenient for patients who currently have to leave the building for the MRI, a diagnostic test that can show tears in muscle and other soft tissue.

The clinic is working with Baptist because it helps reduce the price and meet common needs, Beasley said.  “It’s just more cost-effective for us to partner to buy an expensive piece of technology,” he said.

Baptist wants the arrangement because of the limitations of its current MRI device at its rehabilitation facility in Germantown and because it doesn’t have the number of patients necessary to convince the state of the need for a second MRI device at that location, said William Tuttle, Baptist’s vice president of planning for the Memphis metro market.  “It just seemed like a natural opportunity … to come together to jointly get this piece of equipment,” he said.

Holcolmb said OrthoMemphis P.C. started in 1969 as a solo practice and has gradually grown.  The group has tried to set itself apart from competitors by offering patients a higher level of service.  “That’s the model that we’ve used and we’ve taken, even though we’ve become not so much the little guys anymore,” he said.  Part of it is spending time with patients.  “You have to interact with the patients in a way that they feel like they’ve been cared for,” he said.

– Daniel Connolly: 529-5296

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