Illinois Bone & Joint Institute: David Wold, Chief Operating Officer

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The Illinois Bone & Joint Institute was founded 20 years ago. The vision of its physician leader, Dr. Wayne Goldstein, was strength in numbers, recognizing that together orthopedic surgeons could control their destiny.

Since its founding, IBJI has evolved through a series of nine practice mergers into one of the largest fully integrated orthopedic practices in the Midwest. With 89 physician, 33 physician assistants, seven residents, and 671 employees, IBJI has 17 offices located strategically along the North Shore, starting in downtown Chicago up through Gurnee, Ill.

Integrated within the organization are 14 rehab centers that IBJI owns and operates, making it the third-largest provider of rehab services in the Chicagoland area. IBJI also owns and operates eight MRI facilities.

A renewed commitment

A few days prior to the interview with HCE, David Wold, chief operating officer, had held a member meeting with IBJI’s physicians, leaders, and administrative team. He said that everyone left the meeting with a renewed commitment to providing exceptional service and the realization that the postwar generation, who had tolerated unexceptional service, had past. Healthcare’s primary customers are now baby boomers whose demands are higher and more taxing than their parents’ demands ever were.

IBJI’s team recognizes that they must be committed to patients, to referring doctors, and to everyone who interacts and does business with them.

Chicagoland area is one of the most-recognized areas for orthopedic leaders in orthopedic care and has built its name on superior clinical services and excellent outcomes. Wold said that IBJI is committed to recruiting the best young talent out there.

“If you look at the most successful medical practices or businesses, essentially great companies are built around one’s ability to recruit, retain, and attract great people,” Wold said. “It starts with the owners, which is difficult because the docs are often busy, but at least my guys get it.”

Wold said that IBJI has a strong administrative team who makes his staff feel recognized and appreciated. He said they cultivate loyalty and dedication through communication and encouragement of all employees.

Competing against a multimillion-dollar system

Most of IBJI’s challenges are no different from any other medical practice out there, Wold said. Faced with one of the worst economic recessions in history, combined with the uncertainty of healthcare reform, volumes are down across-the-board because patients don’t want to go to the doctor unless they absolutely must.

Even more profound is that IBJI is now dealing with competition greater than a five-doctor orthopedic practice down the street. Instead, it’s multimillion-dollar hospital systems that are flexing muscles and buying up IBJI’s competition.

Wold said that his leadership finds themselves making decisions today based on what they know while trying to be prepared for change based on the uncertainties of tomorrow. He believes that IBJI is a relatively sophisticated organization and can be a player in such areas as bundled payments and pay for performance.

“We hope to be that orthopedic group that is partnering with hospitals, not being acquired by hospitals, but ultimately having an impact in terms of helping reduce costs on the hospital side and sharing in the upside associated with that,” he stated.

Improving quality of service

Of course, going forward, IBJI’s chief goal is to improve its level of service. Wold said his organization was ahead of the curve about five years ago in terms of dollars it has invested in compliance and risk-management programs. He added that this also encompasses dollars invested in patient safety.

Simply put, IBJI wants to make it a more comfortable experience for when patients come into the office. Two years ago, IBJI implemented digital X-ray in its offices. Wold said the implementation was a tremendous success.

“I’ve never seen our doctors so excited,” he stated.

Electronic medical records (EMRs) are also well on the way toward implementation. It took IBJI seven years to find the right solution, but it settled on SRSsoft, which is similar to a hybrid document scanner.

“When I realized a guy like me could actually learn the functionality of it in 20 minutes, I thought that this is the perfect solution, and it’s truly an unbelievable success story,” Wold said.

The implementation has not affected physician workflow, nor has it seen a reduction in productivity.

“It is so easy to use that it was not a barrier for our physicians who are not technically savvy,” he stated.

The next few years

Wold tidily summed up IBJI’s three-to-five-year strategic plan when he said, “From a marketing perspective, our goal 2013 is focusing more on internal marketing and implementation of the customer-satisfaction plan. We want to continue to be the best. We want to continue to be known as leaders in orthopedic care.”

To reach these goals, IBJI has been implementing a plan known as OrthoAccess, which consists of its member clinics seeing patients from 4 until 9 and in a couple of offices until 10 and being opened on Saturdays. This way, patients don’t have to go into the ER and can see an ortho surgeon almost immediately and at any time.

“It has been a fabulous success,” Wold said. “Our patients love it because it’s a lot less of a hassle, much more convenient than going to an ER room.”

And the cost to see an IBJI doc is also significantly less than the expenses incurred in going to an ER room.

With all of these initiatives and commitments, Wold wants to make IBJI an increasingly more attractive option for younger recruits.

“We’re able to offer a competitive and secure offer to these young guys and so can a large hospital system, but the difference is we’re physician-owned and physician-driven. We have a bunch of entrepreneurs, so it’s an attractive program and our challenge will be to remain that way as we move into the future.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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