Two competing groups of Omaha orthopedic surgeons are combining their practices to form what they say will be the largest orthopedic specialty group in the region.
NebOrtho, or Nebraska Orthopaedic Associates, which was formed in 1938, and OrthoWest Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Specialists, which has been around for more than a decade, will merge as of Jan. 1. The combined entity will take the OrthoWest name and the logo of NebOrtho.
The two practices already share a building near 144th Street and West Center Road. NebOrtho, which has 13 physicians, is on the building's first floor, and OrthoWest, which has 11 physicians, is on the second.
Members of both practices are owners of the nearby Nebraska Orthopaedic Hospital, which also is part-owned by the Nebraska Medical Center.
“Even though we're competitors, we found ourselves working together on hospital committees, on various programs, on patient quality initiatives within the hospital,” said Dr. Ian Crabb of OrthoWest. “It became apparent that we were better together than apart.”
Physicians across the country are considering such moves. The Wolters Kluwer Health 2013 Physician Outlook Survey, which included more than 300 practicing physicians, found that more than a third were thinking about “exploring different business models” such as mergers or becoming part of a hospital system.
The merger of the two practices will allow the physicians to maintain their private-practice existence instead of becoming part of a health system, Dr. Nick Bruggeman of NebOrtho said. “Our two groups can come together with multiple subspecialists in many different areas in orthopedic surgery to provide patients with better outcomes, more expertise, wider experience.”
Crabb said that by having four hand surgeons, for example, “we have a chance to talk about difficult cases or protocols or outcomes in ways that are hard when you have just one or two.”
Hospitals and physicians' practices usually are separate entities, Crabb said, but since physicians in the two practices have control over the hospital, “we have the ability to integrate the experience for the patient” by moving toward one medical record and one bill.
The combined practice should allow patients better access to specialty physicians, Bruggeman said, noting that same-day appointments will be possible in some cases.
The work that needs to be done to combine the practices already has begun, said Dave Zauha, OrthoWest's administrator.
NebOrtho's three other offices, near the Nebraska Medical Center, Bellevue Medical Center and Council Bluffs' Jennie Edmundson Hospital, will remain open.
The combined practice will have 105 staff members in addition to the 24 physicians, Zauha said. No layoffs are foreseen, he said.