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Spine Surgery

Product Overview

The Spine Surgery Improvement Application is aimed at clinical and medical directors, operational directors, and clinical program guidance teams and workgroups for Neuroscience, Orthopedic, and/or Primary Care. The application focuses on providing data to help improve assessment, diagnosis, treatment decision-making, and quality-of-life outcomes for patients suffering from back or neck pain. In-Development

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Benefits Include:

  • Reduction in unnecessary imaging
  • Improved processes and tools for measuring and comparing functional and quality-of-life outcomes for spine patients
  • Reduced aggregate cost for elective spine surgeries
  • Improved patient satisfaction and quality of life

Data Sources

  • EMR
  • Costing

Spine Surgery: A Deeper View


Spine disorders are common and costly. Low back pain alone affects 80-90% of adults at some time in their lives (CMS 2014). Imaging is overused for initial assessment of acute low back pain, and evidence is insufficient to recommend one spine treatment over another in most cases. Spine surgery is rarely indicated, yet spinal fusion surgery represented the highest aggregate cost for hospital stays in 2011, costing $12.8 billion (AHRQ 2014). Treatment decisions are highly dependent on patient preference and pre-treatment quality-of-life variables.

Problem Summary

Health Catalyst ranks spine care processes in the top 5 for clinical quality improvement opportunity based on volume, variation, and financial metrics. Most health systems experience first-hand the challenges associated with variation in practice (particularly overutilization of certain diagnostic and treatment procedures) and increasingly struggle to achieve reimbursements for surgeries. The ability to explore appropriate imaging and to measure and analyze functional and quality-of-life outcomes for various treatment options provides a meaningful, patient-centered way to compare the effectiveness of different spine procedures for different patient populations.

Use Cases

  • Spine surgeons want to be able to measure and demonstrate the effectiveness of spinal fusion surgeries for appropriate patients.
  • An outpatient clinic wants to improve patient education and shared decision-making processes for patients presenting with low back pain, to improve patient satisfaction and reduce the number of unnecessary MRIs and invasive spinal procedures.

Success Measures

Opportunity Identification:

  • Compare outcomes and costs of patients undergoing various elective spine procedures.
  • Identify type and volume of unnecessary imaging.

Process Improvements:

  • Improve the percentage of patients for whom functional outcomes and quality-of-life measures are captured before and after elective spine treatments.
  • Improve the percentage of patients for whom patient education and shared decision-making processes were completed.
  • Improve compliance to imaging criteria for patients presenting with acute low back pain.

Outcomes Improvement:

  • Improve patient satisfaction and quality-of-life measures for patients with back and neck pain.
  • Decrease aggregate cost for elective spinal fusion surgeries.
  • Reduce imaging costs for acute low back pain.