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OMAHA — The nine orthopedic surgeons who make up Methodist Physicians Clinic Orthopedics will join MD West One effective March 1, creating one of the largest groups of orthopedic, neurosurgery and spine specialists in the region.

Patients initially won’t notice much of a change, other than the fact that they’ll make their appointments through MD West One, said Chuck Livingston, MD West One’s president and CEO.

They can continue to see their specialists at their current locations. For current Methodist orthopedics patients, that’s the Methodist HealthWest office near 156th Street and West Dodge Road.

Both the soon-to-be-former Methodist physicians and MD West One doctors will continue to perform surgical procedures at the same locations they’ve always used, including most Methodist locations. MD West One and Methodist partnered to establish Midwest Surgical Hospital at 7915 Farnam Drive about a dozen years ago.

But furthering the long-standing relationship between the two organizations will immediately improve patients’ access to orthopedic specialists, said Josie Abboud, president and CEO of Methodist Hospital and Methodist Women’s Hospital.

Demand for those services has grown as medical technology and techniques have improved, Livingston said, and as younger patients have begun seeking the fixes — think knee replacements — once left to patients in their 60s and 70s.

Livingston said the move began with discussions around how the organizations could work together to improve quality and cost, particularly at a time when Medicare and other insurers are pressing to reduce reimbursements for care.

Methodist Physicians Clinic’s primary care practice has grown at a rate of about 9% a year over the past five years, said Todd Grages, the clinics’ president and CEO. The patient count stands at about 400,000 patients. The practice added 47 primary care physicians in 2019.

While the nine Methodist orthopedic surgeons were serving many of those patients, he said, a good number were getting orthopedic care elsewhere in the community. Methodist officials calculated they’d need 20 or more orthopedic surgeons to meet patients’ demands. With this move, MD West One will have 23 orthopedic specialists and nine neurosurgeons.

“We need these services, and working together is the best way we can do it efficiently,” Grages said.

Further speeding access to orthopedic care, MD West One will open an orthopedic-focused urgent care at Methodist HealthWest on March 1.

Abboud said the urgent care would allow patients who don’t need the emergency room — the youth who tweaks a knee at soccer practice or the adult who falls and bangs an elbow — to be seen more quickly by the right physician for evaluation.

Typically, such patients otherwise might go to an ER or wait until morning to see their primary care physician. From there, they’d likely be referred to a specialist. Not only could getting patients to the right specialist reduce the cost of care, it also could free slots for primary care doctors to see medical patients.

“It will be a better way of getting to those things that you need,” said Dr. Bradley Bowdino, a neurosurgeon with MD West One. “It streamlines the way people get to their physicians and to their care, ultimately.”

Dr. Nicholas Wegner, an orthopedist with MD West One, noted that the improved access also extends to specialists, such as hand or foot and ankle, whom patients may have had difficulty getting in to see quickly in the past.

Eventually, the urgent care would move to a new orthopedic center that MD West One and Methodist are discussing. Further details have not been worked out.

For MD West One, the extension of its relationship with Methodist also allows the group to take on more of a regional focus, Livingston said. MD West One formed more than two years ago when Midwest Neurosurgery joined with GIKK Ortho Specialists. The group has an office in Fremont and has outreach locations throughout the area.

For the doctors, it means gaining additional partners with whom to exchange ideas and information, Wegner and others said.

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