Q&A with Kim Hallum-Stewart: The Brain & Spine Network Center of Excellence Program Helps You Conquer Your Back and Neck Pain

For team members suffering from back and neck pain, the Brain & Spine Network Center of Excellence program takes the guesswork out of finding help. The innovative program greatly reduces out-of-pocket costs for care and provides nurse navigators to assist throughout the journey to getting better.

Kim Hallum-Stewart, system administrator of neurosciences at Baptist, explained more about the Brain & Spine Network Center of Excellence program and how it can benefit you, your spouse and dependents 18 years of age and older.

What is the Brain & Spine Network Center of Excellence program?

The Brain & Spine Network Center of Excellence program, developed by Baptist and Semmes Murphey, was designed to deliver a concierge experience for people with back and neck pain and other neurological conditions. It’s a collaboration between the Baptist team and Semmes Murphey surgeons to provide the right care, for the right cost, at the right place and the right time. When we joined together, the priority was developing and measuring patient outcomes to ensure the highest level of care.

We started two years ago with a pilot program on ourselves. The Brain & Spine Network contracted with Baptist to provide the service to our team members, their spouses and their dependents 18 and older who participate in a Baptist health plan. In November 2021, we brought on our first external employer group for this program and are now working to onboard additional employers, as well. It’s a project that has proven successful, and we feel like it will benefit other companies in our region.

Do team members need to live near Memphis to take part?

No. The Baptist system is so large, it’s important to offer team members who live farther away from the clinic in metro Memphis access to treatment, as well. That’s why the Brain & Spine Network has collaborated with Vori Health to provide virtual services for these team members.

All team members have access to the same level of care with virtual nonsurgical visits and support. Virtual care allows team members to connect with a health care provider for back and neck issues through an app on their phone or other device.

The virtual team comprises a physician, nurse practitioner, physical therapist and health coach. One of the advantages to virtual care is that it allows team members to receive care at home at a time that is convenient for them. There’s no more driving to and from appointments.

Virtual physical therapy appointments ensure exercises are performed correctly, and in-app videos and direct messaging offer support between visits. Currently, virtual care is only available for Baptist team members.

In addition, the Brain & Spine Network now has physical therapy locations in all our markets, so follow-up services are provided closer to home, even if the member travelled to Memphis for a clinic visit.

How does participation benefit team members or their spouses and adult dependents?

Our research shows that participants in the Brain & Spine Network Center of Excellence program return to work 14% more quickly compared to the national average. Patient satisfaction with the care and service provided is 90%. For Baptist participants, there may be no out-of-pocket expense or co-pays. Employees who participate in the high-deductible health plan will be responsible for meeting their deductible.

The nurse navigators are by far what team members enjoy the most about this program. The Brain & Spine Network Center of Excellence program is one of the most positively received benefits that Baptist has added recently. This program is designed to lead the patient throughout their care experience and help avoid any pitfalls.

Before, team members might have visited their primary care physician and physical therapist and learned they’re nonsurgical patients. They might have gotten stuck trying to figure out what to do next. Now, team members have a nurse navigator assigned to them from the beginning to lead them through the entire process.

Whether you need physical therapy, visits with a physiatrist (physical medicine and rehabilitation physician) or sports medicine physician, a surgical consultation or even surgery, the nurse navigator is with you all the way.

If the physician orders physical therapy, the nurse navigator will make the appointment for you. We have guidelines that limit waits for a clinic appointment. Urgent appointments are offered the same day when possible, and acute appointments are offered as early as possible, usually within three to five days. And you will not experience any delays due to insurance concerns or obtaining prior authorizations.

The advantage for employers participating in the program is that they pay a predictable price with a bundle payment model, and that savings is passed along to the employee.

What is unique about the Brain & Spine Network Center of Excellence program?

The Brain & Spine Network Center of Excellence program participates in a national quality outcomes database that looks at surgical patient outcomes, but what’s unique is that we also developed a second quality outcomes database that follows nonsurgical program patients.

In our experience with the Baptist population, only 15% of patients will go beyond physical therapy and a clinic visit to have procedures to alleviate pain or surgery. That conservative, nonsurgical care encompasses so much of the treatment we provide. We spent several months developing a program designed with those patients in mind. Whether you chose the in-person or virtual nonsurgical care pathway, you can be assured that there is an entire team of providers ready to care for you.

If you need surgery, you can be certain that the same team will be with you through every step of the process.

Who can participate, and how do you enroll?

Anyone who meets the clinical requirements and participates in a Baptist health plan, including their spouses and dependents 18 and older, can participate. To enroll, contact us at 901-227-8927.

What conditions or procedures are covered?

When you call, the nurse navigator walks through a list of questions to assess your current condition and determine if there are any emergent issues or “red flags.” If there are no flags that would indicate an emergency, the nurse navigator gets you an appointment with the right person to begin your care journey.

Care is delivered in inpatient, outpatient, and office care settings, as well as virtually. Some of the procedures and services covered include evaluation services; physical therapy; pain management blocks; cervical disk surgery; laminotomy/low back disk surgery; spinal fusion and arthrodesis; neck spinal fusion; inpatient back, neck and spinal procedures; cranial catheter placement and craniotomy.

Would you like to add anything?

It’s important to note that this kind of program would not be possible without the collaboration with other care providers like Semmes Murphey. The synergy between the two organizations and the new collaboration with health providers like Vori is what gives the Center of Excellence program its staying power and unique place in the health care system. I am very proud to be a part of this collaboration and look forward to serving more of our Baptist team members.

To schedule an appointment or for more information, please call one of our nurse navigators at 901-227-8927.