Regenerative Medicine and Your Practice
Regenerative medicine is one of the most promising medical developments the field has ever seen. No less an authority than Mayo Clinic calls it “a game-changing area.” You entered the field to provide precisely the sort of relief regenerative medicine not only promises but delivers in many cases.
It’s only natural, then, that you’d be interested in regenerative medicine options for your practice.
There is another matter drawing you in for a closer look: potential cash revenue. You’d be hard-pressed to find an adviser who would scoff at investigating new revenue streams. Maybe you need to do so because a surplus of medical professionals and practices in your area is reducing your patient list. Perhaps the growing complexity and rigor of managed are negatively impacting current practice revenue.
“One way to stay competitive and keep your income at its customary level is to expand the scope of your practice,” Susan Harrington Preston suggested in Medical Economics magazine. “If the services you add are in demand by patients but aren’t covered by insurance, so much the better.”
Demand for regenerative medicine appears to support a closer look. One market research effort valued the worldwide regenerative medicine market at close to $8 billion in 2017 growing to more than $26 billion by 2024.
Are you wondering about today’s regenerative medicine practitioners? A common professional thread among many is pain management — underscoring just one of the field’s promising applications. For physicians with and without a pain management background, training programs and institutions exist to help develop their expertise.
“Regenerative Medicine and Your Practice” provides a look into this dynamic field, establishing what we mean when we talk about regenerative medicine and how your practice might reinvigorate itself.
Defining Regenerative Medicine
Whether you’re familiar with regenerative medicine or completely new to the field, it’s likely beneficial to define what precisely we mean when we talk about “regenerative medicine.”
Put simply, regenerative medicine is an umbrella term under which several different treatment paths reside, including:
- Gene therapy
- Cell therapy
- Tissue-engineered products
Depending on how broad we want to apply the term to medical procedures, regenerative medicine’s history either goes back hundreds of years to studies conducted with chick embryos or, more recently, to the 1950s. We’ll stick with the latter; it helps frame the circumstances in which current regenerative medicine finds itself.
And make no mistake: those circumstances are promising. It isn’t hyperbole to say that medicine has never been closer to aiding a body’s repair capabilities by regenerating organs, repairing cells, or augmenting metabolic processes — no name just a few potentialities.
Diseases and injuries that have to date avoided satisfactory treatment options — if any treatment options are available at all — stand to lose real ground in the fight for life extension, quality of life improvements, and more. That list includes:
- Heart disease
- Organ repair and transplantation
While modern medicine has yet to find a treatment option as straightforward as an “on/off” switch, regenerative medicine holds more than a promise. It holds actual, real-world treatments and advances.
One Million Strong
The medical journal Lancet Haematol presented research in 2015 examining decades of stem cell treatments. More than a million patients worldwide had been treated with adult stem cells through 2012 and experienced improved health.
Blood Cancer Combat
Stem cell treatments for blood cancers have been around for years and continue to help patients suffering from leukemia and other diseases.
Scaffold to Health
Research supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) includes the development of scaffold material (a structural element holding together cells or tissues) to “fabricate, image, monitor, and preserve engineered tissues.” Potential treatment applications include organ transplantation and the creation of new knee cartilage.
No medical procedure brings with it an ironclad guarantee of success. Regenerative medicine’s stem cell therapies are no different. While some patients may experience a full or partial reduction of their symptoms, others will, unfortunately, receive no positive impact at all.
One thing is certain, though. Reaching the full potential of regenerative medicine means having access to the single most important element of the field: stem cells.
The Building Blocks of Regenerative Medicine
The National Institutes of Health defines stem cells as unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division and, under certain conditions, transforming into tissue- or organ-specific cells.
Given such powerful flexibility, then, there’s little wonder why stem cells form the cornerstone of many regenerative medicine treatments. They are, in a literal sense, the building blocks of the field.
Stem cells called upon for treatments can come from a few sources. Three of the most popular sources are:
Consider this a twist on a famous axiom — not “Physician, heal thyself” but rather “Patient, heal thyself.” Regenerative medicine leverages the patient — that is, the patient’s stem cells — to treat the patient. This is achieved by reprogramming that patient’s skin cells to treat a particular illness.
As has been the case for many years, blood diseases may be treated with donor stem cells. Such situations may involve damage or decay caused by chemotherapy, leukemia, lymphoma, or similar ailments. Stem cell transplants in such cases often come from adult donors.
Embryonic stem cells originate from days-old embryos (three to five days) and are considered more readily capable of becoming any type of cell. That’s an important distinction and one from which these stem cells derive so much of their promise. A stem cell that can more effectively be turned into any type of cell has greater utility in the fight against many of the diseases and health issues we face in the course of our lives.
Stem Cell Use In Regenerative Medicine
Just as your body may contain the very components it needs to surmount or recover from various illnesses, your practice may already have much of what it needs for regenerative medicine services. Accessing the stem cell “building blocks,” for example, requires tools conceivably already within your reach:
- Bone marrow aspiration needles to acquire the bone marrow used in harvesting stem cells
- A centrifuge and cell counter to isolate the cells
- A fluoroscopy or ultrasound machines for guidance when injecting the isolated and concentrated stem cells
Different factors, of course, may require different tools. For example, most procedures can be done with local anesthetic. Some patients might request or require IV sedation (for treatments related to the spine).
Same-day recovery protocol from a stem cell treatment is unremarkable. Time in a recovery room will be necessary for patients who had to receive IV sedation. After that, patients should:
- Avoid anti-inflammatory medications
- Rest the treated area for the first 24 – 48 hours
- Begin physical therapy when promoted by their physician
Pain is normal for a day or two after the treatment; it’s severity and duration will vary by patient and will decrease over time.
Revenue and Regenerative Medicine
Offering regenerative medicine means you can:
- Provide patients with debilitating conditions such as this one, this one, and this one a potentially effective treatment path when others have failed to produce favorable results
- Expand the scope of your practice, as we mentioned before, to a field with notable anticipated growth in the coming years
- Grow your practice’s cash-transaction revenue stream
That last feature is especially relevant today. Physicians exhausted from unsustainable hours and untenable (and growing) insurance billing aggravations are moving away from the established insurance-based model to a direct pay model.
You don’t have to go all-in on a direct pay model, of course. There are many advantages to a measured pace when onboarding a new service to your practice. A business plan is a great place to start.
Your Business Plan … and the Team to Help You Execute It
Finding a business plan template online is as easy as a two-minute Google expedition. Don’t let the ones you find tempt you, however. Every business has different goals, expectations, and markets to consider.
You need a business plan crafted to your specific practice, not something developed to apply to many different “generic” medical practices. As the regenerative medicine landscape continues to evolve, you’ll want a plan with enough dexterity to respond to changes locally and even globally. You can’t achieve this alone.
Business plan success requires a team that can help you develop a regenerative medicine practice or service line. Such a group will include any partners you have, of course, but also an attorney, accountant, and insurance agent (especially important given today’s insurance needs). Since you’re new to the regenerative marketing space, bringing in a marketing consultant early in the process is likely a good idea.
Prepping your practice for regenerative medicine isn’t as difficult as it might seem at first. We know from the previous section that tools such as needles and centrifuges maybe already be part of your practice.
Because stem cell injections are such a pivotal part of regenerative medicine, needle guidance tools such as a fluoroscopic X-ray machine/C-Arm or an ultrasound device are vital.
Equipment is among the most significant expenses when it comes to bringing regenerative medicine into your practice. A C-Arm will stand as one of the most crucial tools within your practice and is an area in which you’ll want to conduct your due diligence. An ultrasound machine is likely also under consideration.
Selecting a C-Arm
Regardless of the industry, many people consider refurbished equipment for the potential cost savings it may offer. Before you make such a purchase, though, make sure you carefully evaluate the plan. Does the warranty cover parts and labor? Without a reliable warranty, your expenses can add up fast. Make sure you receive no less than a one-year/100% warranty on parts and labor — one that does not have deductibles or prorated coverage.
Leading-edge technology is about more than bragging rights. The right tools can help differentiate your practice. If your plan allows for something along the lines of a 10-year plan and image quality unavailable in older machines, the Zen 7000 might be a better fit.
Complete Medical Services offers many options for C-Arms. After working closely with you to identify your needs, we’ll provide the best system — as well as training for the system — for your needs.
Selecting an Ultrasound
You also may consider an ultrasound machine. Like the C-Arm, conducting your due diligence here will pay big dividends down the road. For example, it’s entirely possible that leasing one will get you more machine for your dollar. Paying cash might prevent you from getting the exact system that you want, since a $10,000 difference in price is prohibitive in a “buy” scenario but only $200 per month in a “lease” scenario.
Since your ultrasound machine is being added to a regenerative medicine tool kit, you’ll have an excellent idea of precise use case scenarios. That’s good since it will help you easily dismiss models that cannot meet those scenarios. A portable ultrasound, for example, might sound nice at first blush but:
- Typically lacks image quality comparable to a console ultrasound
- Does not feature the same probe selection as a console ultrasound
- Is often saddled by limited software features and options when compared to a console ultrasound
- Limits you to a small keyboard monitor
Ironically, a portable ultrasound has almost the same footprint as a console ultrasound since in most cases a cart is needed for the portable model.
And as we’re about to see, size is a consideration we need to make.
Use of x-ray fluoroscopy requires certain elements within its space. Depending upon your location, you may need to line the walls, door, ceiling, and floor shielding within (the latter two likely being dependent upon the presence of people below or above you and the material used for constructing the space).
Ultrasound machines, on the other hand, do not use ionizing radiation and therefore do not require radiation shielding.
You’ll also need to ensure that the designated space can accommodate the C-Arm, ultrasound machine, table, and other equipment used during procedures. For instance, the minimum area for a C-Arm room is 10 feet x 10 feet.
Stem cell treatments, often given with little more than local anesthesia, may require post-procedure recovery rooms for patients whose treatments call for general anesthesia. A space of 120 sq. ft. (minimum) should qualify as appropriate for recovering patients.
For more than 20 years, Complete Medical Services has provided the medical community with equipment, service, and consulting. We’ve helped medical practices increase revenue, roll out new services, and reduce their overhead. Additionally, we have vetted partners and tools — along with full training and consultation packages — available to ensure as efficient an implementation process as possible for you.
If you’re considering regenerative medicine for your practice, we can help you develop a business plan, select the right C-Arm and other equipment, and more. Contact them today to learn more.
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