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Surgeons at BioSpine Institute take a minimally invasive approach with procedures. It's more difficult, but it has led to rapid growth.
by: Steven Benna Staff Writer

Surgeons Frank Bono and James Ronzo have worked in minimally invasive spine surgery for more than a decade.

Prior to fall 2014, the surgeons worked out of a hospital and ran a successful spine surgery business called the Gulf Coast Spine Institute in Brooksville. But the duo decided to rebrand as an all-around spine treatment center, and they wanted a less regional-sounding name. They decided on the BioSpine Institute, and that fall they opened a 10,000-square-foot surgery center in Tampa.

The company has since grown quickly — despite entering a new market with a new name. It now treats between 400 and 500 patients per month, up from zero when it made the switch 18 months ago, says Martin McCauley, BioSpine's director of patient services.

Company officials site a number of factors in the growth, including a unique customer service approach and a type of surgery that offers speedier recovery times.

The quick growth also required expansion, and one year after opening BioSpine increased its physical space by more than 300%. The expansion came in the form of a 31,000-square-foot patient center on Boy Scout Boulevard in Tampa, just down the street from the surgery center. McCauley did not share costs of the expansion but says the new center is physician funded.

Filling that square footage meant a sharp jump in the employee total at BioSpine, too. Since moving in 2014, the employee count has risen from 60 to about 95 people, McCauley says.

One of the key elements of the growth is BioSpine's focus on only minimally invasive surgeries, which puts it in a small minority of practices that stick to only that method. In minimally invasive surgery, everything is done through a ¾-inch tube and surgeons don't cut muscle. It's a more difficult procedure but provides a much quicker recovery time because the surgeons dilate the muscles rather than cutting them. Faster recovery time, when talking to possible patients, gives BioSpine a competitive edge. “I've had patients in for surgery on a Thursday and back to work on a Monday,” Bono says.

Bono and Ronzo are another integral piece of the business. They are heavily involved before a surgery is even scheduled, by meeting with every patient and sticking with them through surgery.

At other practices, patients often only get to meet their surgeons when they arrive on the day of surgery, McCauley says. “It's kind of a next-up arrangement depending on who's working, as if every surgeon is as good as the rest,” he says. “It'd be like saying every NFL player is as good as everyone else.”

Up front communication with patients is also critical to BioSpine's strategy. Patients are paired with a concierge who sticks with them throughout the entire process, McCauley says.
That concierge knows the patient's history, and can answer any questions that arise. “In health care, machinery is moving forward; patient communication is not,” says McCauley. “We're changing that.”

The most common question for those concierges is how much the procedure will cost. Sharing those costs, and all accepted forms of insurance, helps eliminate financial problems for patients.

The transparency-driven, customer-first approach has worked so well that the company doesn't plan to stop in Tampa. Orlando, Jacksonville, Fort Myers and South Florida are future options, McCauley says. Orlando, so far, is the front-runner, with a goal to break ground on a surgery center this fall.

(This story was updated to reflect the correct term for what surgeons do with muscles in a minimally invasive surgery.)


Busy field
Spine surgery and related work is a hot field in the Tampa Bay area. In addition to the BioSpine Institute, there's the LaserSpine Institute, the Florida Orthopedic Institute and Florida Hospital, to name just a few.

And LaserSpine isn't just close to BioSpine in offerings, it's also nearby physically, with a new facility BioSpine's director of patient services Martin McCauley says is just “a pitching wedge away.”

Follow Steven Benna on Twitter @steve_benna

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