Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Center: Eric Worthan, CEO

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As the largest private orthopedic group in Colorado and one of the larger groups of its kind in the Western US, Panorama Orthopedic s & Spine Center is a leader in sub-specialty orthopedics. Currently the group consists of 23 surgeons, however the group is rapidly growing and actively recruiting, so this number is sure to grow quickly.

Panorama’s core office and clinic are located in Golden, Colorado. This facility boasts an integrated orthopedic facility, with a second floor clinic and a four-room surgery center, plus physical therapy and an MRI facility. The group’s IT structure is also conveniently based here. Panorama relocated its north Denver office in October of 2008, to Westminster, Colorado, which offers physical therapy in the 11,000 square foot space. The brand new building boasts a “green” LEED certification; something that CEO Eric Worthan says the group is very excited about. Additionally, Panorama houses a smaller office in Littleton, Colorado, with several physicians based primarily at this location.

All this progress is a far cry from its humble beginnings. The organization started out as Lakewood Orthopedic Clinic close to 50 years ago. When the group moved to Golden in 2000, the name was changed to Panorama to be more reflective of the broader community that the group was now serving.

Specialization Leads to Focused Care and Repeat Clients

“One thing that is different about our group from other orthopedic groups is that we are very sub-specialized,” says Worthan. “It is in our by-laws that you have to be fellowship-trained to be a member of our group and we have very distinct service lines for sports, joint care, spine, trauma, hand, foot and ankle.”  Worthan adds that Panorama’s physicians practice exclusively in their elected practice inside their service line, so the degree of specialty and expertise is high. “We think the sub-specialization drives better care for the patient. And I think it benefits the physicians who went into these fellowship areas, I think it’s more enjoyable for their practice to really be able to focus in an area where they wanted to train.” Besides working at the group’s clinics, Panorama’s orthopedic trauma department provides level one trauma care 24/7 at Centura Health’s St. Anthony Central Hospital.

But just because Panorama is so specialized, doesn’t mean that clients are one-time customers. In fact, many patients begin their relationship for one type of care and wind up coming back when they need additional care from other service lines. “We don’t do what you would consider to be general orthopedics, people are going to be referred in under the proper service line and we cross service lines on a regular basis. For example, you might have come in for a knee you hurt while skiing but then next time you might come in for your foot or ankle. Patients become patients of the whole practice.”

Learning and Educating Go Hand and Hand at Panorama

Although Panorama is not an academic practice per se, Worthan says that the practice does have an “academic feel” more so than other practices of its kind. He cites the group physicians’ ongoing research within their sub-specialty line as well as across the practice at large to support this statement. The spine service line research has been going on for nearly twenty years. “Many of our physicians do writing for textbooks and public speaking. We have a tenacious focus on research and education and support our individual physicians along those lines. I think this supports our general focus on quality. We encourage all of our physicians to really have a strong emphasis on continuing education, medical development and also teaching.”  Worthan adds that Panorama has also set up three fellowship programs within the sports, spine and trauma service lines respectively, plus a residency program in their surgical settings.

A Culture that Inspires Creativity, Care and Commitment

Worthan is a relative newcomer to the Panorama scene, but brings with him both a spirit of entrepreneurship and a refreshing attitude to corporate culture that seems to be a perfect fit for Panorama. Worthan came to Panorama in 2007, after the former CEO retired after decades in charge. “I had previously owned a business in practice management and medical billing, but I wanted to try something new, so I sold my shares to my other partners in the business and took some time off to enjoy time with my family and look at what would be the next step for me in my career.” A business associate referred Worthan to Panorama upon learning of its CEO’s retirement. “I knew of Panorama, but I didn’t know enough to know whether this was the type of business I wanted to be associated with. I came here and met with the Panorama people and the pieces came together and we seemed to be a good fit for each other.”

One thing that stood out for Worthan in deciding to take the helm of Panorama was its distinctively positive culture. “I’ve been around physician groups for 13 years and have seen the good, the bad and the ugly, but Panorama is incredibly functional and I think there’s a collegial atmosphere here that you don’t see replicated in large groups that often.” Worthan adds there are certain actions and initiatives that support this atmosphere. First, the group is very selective about who the group brings on. Even though the team is currently in a big recruiting push, they won’t just take anyone with the right resume, physicians have to be the right fit for the group. Also the group’s annual retreat, conducted by a clinical psychologist who specializes in improving culture at orthopedic groups, has become a tradition for the team and dates back decades.  “We all get away, usually up to the mountains and just spend a couple of intense days and I really think that grounds everybody and keeps us focused on why we are all here.”

Encouraging an Entrepreneurial Spirit in Employees

Part of Panorama’s secret to employee satisfaction is based in the idea of empowering employees to feel that they are providing more than just eight hours of service. “We try to solve problems at the lowest level that they occur. We really encourage our employees, we want them to think, we want their ideas and we want their engagement.” According to Worthan there are many examples of employees coming together and solving problems and creating impressive change. “It’s important that they know they are part of everything we do and encourage that entrepreneurial spirit, so whatever they do has value, they are part of something bigger than just their job title.” As a bonus, Worthan describes the general atmosphere of Panorama as fun loving and a place where physicians like to have fun. “We hope that spills over, we are serious about what we are doing but we enjoy our work and that’s important.”

Creating Growth through a Unique Investing System

There’s more than just staff numbers that are growing. Although the group continually invests in its IT structure and currently employs an electronic health record system, there are plans to fully overhaul this system and replace it with a new one. The biggest plan however is the building of a specialty orthopedic hospital. Along with Centura Health System and this health system’s sponsor, Catholic Health Initiatives, the facility is under construction with an opening planned for mid-2010.

Leading the way to future investments is Panorama’s unique governing structure. “We have an interesting structure. We have our traditional physician board, that runs the physician practice, but we also have a second governing body called Panorama Investment Management, which manages outside holdings.” Holdings like the outside surgery center, MRI, real estate, all occur outside of the core physician group. “It has really freed up the physician board to focus on clinical issues. “This allows the business board to focus on business development. It’s really easier to incubate businesses and to think about business opportunities within this structure.”

“Really the goal that we are driving to, if you put together all of our business strategy, is building an integrated orthopedic delivery system. From the patient that comes in seeking care of a sprained ankle all the way through to joint replacement and physical therapy, we’ll be involved in every aspect of their care and providing value-based care where we can offer the best outcomes at a lower price.” Worthan sees Panorama as leading the way of health groups that are embracing this model. “The industry is so fragmented, hospitals and physician groups aren’t working together. We want to get to a place where everything we do delivers amazing outcomes and the best value to the healthcare system at large. Integrating those things is more and more what Panorama is about. I don’t think a lot of people have been able to make those leaps so we really want to be at the forefront of this change.”

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