Comprehensive Care: Nebraska Orthopaedic Center Builds Community Reach

The January merger of two longtime orthopedic practices has created a new entity poised for growth in a highly competitive marketplace. Lincoln Orthopaedic Center and Nebraska Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine joined forces to create Nebraska Orthopaedic Center, the result of two years of formal and informal discussions between the two practices’ physicians.

“There’s a lot of background work that has to happen before any merger of groups happens,” said Dave Zauha, CEO. “We worked on the background in earnest most of last year and that brought 25 physicians together. The groups were very equally matched. There were about 12 doctors in each group and they had both been in the Lincoln community for a long time.”

In fact, Zauha noted, the two practices regularly competed with each other for market share, something else that motivated them to combine. 

“The real antithesis of bringing these together is that neither group wanted to be the standout,” he said. “Both groups had such a great following in town that to keep one or the other would have been difficult on the other set of docs and staff. It was intended to be a melding of the two names and the two groups.

“With all that’s happening in the world of health care, we really saw this [merger] as a way to support not only independent private practice medicine, but to help create a patient experience that was unmatched for orthopedic care in the Lincoln area.”

Balancing Clientele

Merging also helps level revenue by leveraging more lucrative specialties to help spread out the higher costs of others. Both were invested in the sports market, for example, and between them now serve the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Lincoln Salt Dogs and Lincoln Stars under one umbrella, as well as providing athletic training services to multiple schools. This helps even out lower reimbursement rates that are common in other segments, such as senior orthopedic care.

“You look at the different specialties, from spine to foot and ankle to hand to total joints, and you’re dealing with much different categories,” Zauha said. 

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Finding cohesion for the whole practice was important. 

“A practice our size really needs a lot of internal ancillary services, all of the marketing and compliance, in place,” he said. “And in order to afford all that, you need a large practice group, because the doctors who are doing total joints are working just as hard as the sports docs, but they’re not getting reimbursed as well. It takes a blending of different specialties into a group.”

Urgent Ortho

The merger of the two groups has also enabled a brand-new offering called Orthopedic Quick Care, an emergency clinic hyper-focused on orthopedic injuries that fits into the overall range of health care resources in the community.

“Orthopedic Quick Care was one of the big priorities for the combined group,” Zauha said. “There are a lot of urgent cares in town, and we don’t want to take anything away from them. We see this as a benefit to the community where we’ve got on-site X-ray; we’ve got providers who are trained in orthopedics to handle fractures or lacerations.

“We all know it’s a lot more expensive to visit the ER than going to the orthopedic physician’s office. In addition to that, it’s probably going to save patients a lot of time; you can easily spend several hours in an ER but with us you can be in and out within an hour, depending on the injury.”

Small Town Feel

The new practice employs 250 and occupies two main clinics, one at 70th and A streets and one in the CHI Health St. Elizabeth Campus. It also delivers care via 19 satellite locations throughout central and southeast Nebraska, most of which are extensions of hospitals. Maintaining a small practice culture in such a large enterprise – both for patients and for staff – is one of the top priorities for the new entity, Zauha said.

“A small-town, family feel is key,” he said. “I would tell you that as the groups came together, that was one of the biggest concerns of our employees; we don’t want to lose the family feel. It’s not easy, especially being in two locations, but we try to do it through our management team. It doesn’t just happen organically; you’ve really got to nurture it. 

“We’re not perfect by any stretch, but we really try to make a concerted effort to encourage our teams to do things socially as well as at work, so that they get to know and understand each other. It helps from a problem-solving standpoint to have that close relationship with each other.”

Nebraska Orthopaedic Center, PC
North Office 575 S 70th St., Suite 200, Lincoln, NE 68510
South Office 6900 A St., Lincoln, NE 68510
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