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NASS Aims for Transparency in Spine Care

Christopher Cheney, for HealthLeaders Media, May 16, 2014

A multidisciplinary medical task force of the North American Spine Society is recommending best clinical practices for more than a dozen spinal treatments, surgical procedures, and diagnostics. The information is being shared with health plans.

The North American Spine Society is seeking to boost transparency in spine care, with a set of new insurance coverage policy recommendations.

"These are coverage recommendations that have been vetted extensively," says Christopher Bono, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and second vice president of NASS.

The recommendations, released this month, cover 13 treatments, surgical procedures, and diagnostics, such as cervical artificial disc replacement (CADR) and lumbar fusion. They include clinical criteria that indicate whether or not a particular kind of spine care is indicated for a patient with specific diagnoses and symptoms. NASS is expecting to release 14 more coverage policy recommendations.

The Burr Ridge, IL-based organization's coverage task force, which helped craft the recommendations featured "the whole gamut" of spine health professionals including surgeons and radiologists. "It's a product that's different than anything NASS has done before," says Bono.

The chief of spine service at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Bono says improving transparency in spine care is a top goal of the NASS recommendations. "The status quo has been insurance companies developing their own coverage policies," he said, characterizing NASS's traditional role in the process as reactive. "NASS would see a draft and it was not always clear how the policies were set."

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