Home' The Source : Third Quarter 2018 Contents Shay Bess, M.D., believes the key to
the future of medicine is data—and he
works tirelessly to spread the message
of its power to transform the quality
of healthcare. As director of surgical
quality and resource utilization for spine services at the Denver
International Spine Center at HealthONE’s Presbyterian/St. Luke’s
Medical Center, and founder and president of the International
Spine Study Group (ISSG), a nonprofit research foundation, he
has merged his love of hands-on clinical practice with a desire to
improve patient care through academic research. He spoke with
The Source about the future of predictive analytics and its promise
for improving patient outcomes and reducing costs and complica-
tions, particularly for at-risk populations.
What led you to your present role balancing clinical and aca-
After medical school and residency training, I worked in ortho-
pedic spine surgery at several places, including at the University of
Utah and San Diego Center for Spinal Disorders. For about eight
years, I was director of the pediatric scoliosis services at the Denver
International Spine Center at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center,
and then I was recruited to be the director of the scoliosis and spine
research programs at New York University (NYU). I was there for
a year before I realized that one does not need to be in a university
setting to be productive in research and academics. The research
we were doing in Denver and with ISSG was more productive and
influential than some of the work I had done in a university setting.
Consequently, I returned to Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in
2016 to serve as director of surgical quality
and resource utilization for spine services
and to focus my efforts on the ISSG, HCA
Healthcare and HealthTrust.
My practice is devoted to pediatric and
adult patients with spine problems, the
majority of whom have scoliosis. Adults
with spine deformities are one of the most
expensive patient populations. They are
also one of the most at-risk for compli-
cations. So, much of our research seeks
to identify and mitigate those risks and
improve care for this patient population.
What is the main focus of the
International Spine Study Group?
The current incarnation of ISSG (issgf.
org) was founded in 2009. Dedicated to
advancing the treatment of adults with
spinal deformity and complex spine sur-
gery, the ISSG has presented the model for
multi-center research efficiency as well as
over 1,000 abstracts worldwide and is now
the most productive spine study group in the world. With the goal
of achieving the best possible outcomes, we have 20 participating
sites nationwide sharing ideas and producing research studies on
spine treatments and techniques. We collaborate with the European
Spine Study Group (ESSG) based out of Barcelona, Spain, and we
also conduct research in Japan and Korea.
Working with the ISSG sparked my interest in predictive analyt-
ics, or using data and algorithms to try to predict which patients
will benefit from certain treatments, who will likely have compli-
cations, what the costs will be, and the duration of hospital stay.
The ISSG initiated an online database in 2009 to allow for seamless
data entry and centralized data quality assurance.
Our research has demonstrated that, based upon a patient’s pro-
file, we can predict outcomes—not just how they’re going to do in
surgery, but also how they’re going to respond to post-surgery ques-
tions, such as, Do you feel healthier? Can you now do the things you
want to do? Do you like your posture and the way you look? Not
only does the data we’re collecting hold enormous potential for us
to assess who is a good candidate for spine surgery and who is at
risk for complications, but it also enables us to counsel patients and
identify their post-surgery goals. This kind of analysis has positive
ramifications for the patient and physician, as well as for the hos-
pital and payer systems.
How would you describe the evolution of analytic research?
There has been an evolution in research from descriptive ana-
lytics (what happened) to diagnostic analytics (why did it happen)
to predictive analytics (what will happen). There are numerous
TEAMWORK TOOLS LEADERSHIP LINK
Continued on page 74
with Shay Bess, M.D.
72 The Source | Third Quarter 2018
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