The past ten months have been challenging, to say the least, but as we bring the year to a close, we would like to take a moment to recognize a major milestone: 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the OrthoForum.
In the late 90s, OrthoForum CEO Glenn Sumner and Col. George Kellum, former CEO of OrthoIndy, noticed a bifurcation between physicians and administrators in the world of private, orthopaedic practices. There were other orthopaedics-related conferences and meetings happening at the time, but none specifically addressing the industry’s business needs and how physicians and administrators could best work together to advance their practices. After attending a conference in 1999, Sumner and Kellum agreed there was a better way and discussed getting a few large (20+ physicians) groups together for a new kind of meeting. That discussion continued over the next nine months. Then, according to Sumner, “One day, I said ‘We’re going to do this.’ I called George and said, ‘Let’s go find seven or eight of our friends with similar practices and see if they’d be willing to come to a meeting.’ That’s how it started.”
In 2001, the first meeting of what was to become the OrthoForum took place at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. Attendees included members of Campbell Clinic, OrthoTennesssee, OrthoIndy and organizations that would eventually become OrthoCarolina and Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance, as well as a few others. “It was really very much an organizational meeting,” said Sumner. “We discussed what we wanted to do, what made sense, and what didn’t.” One of the things that became quickly obvious was the need for good benchmarking data that was specific to large orthopaedic practices. Mike McCaslin with Somerset CPAs, who Glenn and George had worked with was also invited to the initial meeting and offered his and Somerset’s expertise to help us meet that need.
As the team came together and the meetings continued, two things were recognized. First, to have the intimacy, openness, and the ability to discuss issues transparently, we needed to keep the number of member groups small. Second, there were too many good, independent groups throughout the country that could benefit from the networking and interchange that had been set up. Most of the original groups were located in the Southeast, which we named the Asheville OrthoForum. But in 2006, the first expansion occurred with the creation of the Western OrthoForum for groups in the Western United States. Shortly after, in 2009 and 2010, the Amelia Island Forum (now Atlantic OrthoForum) and Reynolds Plantation Forum (now Reynolds OrthoForum) were added, as well as an annual meeting that would bring together members from all the regional Forums. As Sumner recalls, “The idea behind an annual meeting was to bring all the member groups together to discuss issues that we could address collectively, where we could drive new opportunities and benefits based on the combined strength of all the groups.” Along the way, those discussions would allow the organization to grow strategically and to create initiatives in group purchasing, advocacy, recruitment, and outcome metrics.
While the original intent of the organization was to help groups in similar situations address challenges that they all were facing, the mission has evolved over the years to advocate for and promote private, independent orthopaedic clinics. As Mike McCaslin explains, “When you look at healthcare decision making, physicians are best positioned to make medical decisions. When physicians are owned by somebody else who is responsible for their pay, those people influence the decision making. Physicians should be free to make the right decisions regarding diagnosis, procedures, and costs to get the best outcome for their patients. Physicians are the only people involved in healthcare delivery that can act as the steward of a patient’s healthcare dollars.”
Today, the OrthoForum is stronger than ever. It is the nation’s largest network of orthopaedic physician groups dedicated to the support and advancement of the private, independent practice of medicine. It includes many of the largest, privately-owned orthopaedic practices in the US. It continues to support its membership by offering services and opportunities in benchmarking, networking, innovation, and advocacy to help them remain independent and thrive in the ever changing healthcare environment. In addition, the OrthoForum is helping the smaller orthoapedic practices through its OrthoForum Network member OrthoConnect (for groups less than 20 physicians). Plus, as Sumner states “We are especially excited about the road ahead. Our grand vision is how we can not only help our groups remain successful in providing services in their current setting, but how can we act as one in the delivery of value-based care.” McCaslin continues, “I think one of the next steps is driving the delivery of musculoskeletal care through direct contracting with employers and developing risk-based arrangements with innovative payers for population health management.”
We remain incredibly thankful to our membership, our sponsors, and our leadership, without whom we would not be where we are today – looking forward to driving change and serving our patients for many successful years to come.