Dr. Michael William Perry, an internist, first became a staunch advocate for outpatient endoscopic spine procedures to relieve lower back and neck pain while working at an orthopedic clinic in Hudson, Fla.
2012 Trustees of the Year: Dr. Michael William Perry—for-profit healthcare company
Backbone of the operation: Perry helps steer rapid expansion of Florida-based spine clinic
“Seeing patients that come in and have pain and seeing them leave without pain—whether I am seeing them in a clinical setting or from an administrative point of view—that is what it is all about,” says Perry, 53.
It also was while working at the clinic, the Gulf Coast Orthopedic Center, that Perry met Dr. James St. Louis, a surgeon, and Dr. Glenn Hamburg, an anesthesiologist. The threesome decided to team up, launching the Laser Spine Institute in 2005 in Tampa, Fla.
EFO Holdings, Dallas, and founders of the Outback Steakhouse chain provided venture-capital financing.
The Laser Spine Institute specializes in endoscopic spine surgery to relieve pain from degenerative discs, bone spurs, pinched nerves and other issues that cause lower back or neck pain. The procedures are an alternative to open back surgery performed in a hospital setting.
The institute has grown rapidly. It performed more than 250 surgeries between March and October 2005 and now performs more than 400 procedures a month. The number of employees has grown from nine when it opened its doors to 450 in January 2012.
In addition to Tampa, the institute now has surgical centers in Scottsdale, Ariz.; Philadelphia; and Oklahoma City. It also operates medical consultation facilities in San Diego; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and at The Villages, a retirement community in central Florida.
Perry deserves a lot of credit for the company's success, says William Horne, CEO of the Laser Spine Institute. “What makes Dr. Perry special is his work ethic. He is willing to do anything that he asks any employee to do,” Horne says.
For Perry's accomplishments, he has been chosen as the 2012 Trustee of the Year representing a for-profit healthcare company. He has been a member of the company's board of directors since the beginning and also is the company's medical director.
During the Laser Spine Institute's early years, Perry's primary role was to evaluate whether patients were candidates for surgery before referring them to surgeons. He also managed pre-operative testing and post-operative care.
After putting in a long day at the clinic, Perry also would review medical information from potential out-of-town patients and then would telephone them to let them know if they might be a surgical candidate.
Indeed, most of Laser Spine Institute's marketing efforts have been targeted at consumers via its website, Facebook, advertising, public relations initiatives and informational seminars, Horne says. About a year ago, however, it broadened its strategy to include marketing efforts focused on physicians, including sales calls, advertising, educational seminars and facility tours.
Medicare patients pay a hefty out-of-pocket sum for Laser Spine Institute's services. Medicare covers all fees except for the facility charge associated with the surgery itself. The spine institute does not accept assignment from Medicare—although the physicians do—so beneficiaries pay for that facility charge, which is about $17,000, Perry says.
As the company has grown, Perry's role has evolved from clinician to administrator. In his current role, he oversees the medical operation, including physician training, credentialing and accreditation. He also is actively involved in marketing activities, physician relations and serves as a company spokesman.
“It got to the point where I had to decide whether I wanted to continue with more of a medical, patient-contact (role) or whether my services were best used for the company to help promote Laser Spine Institute,” Perry says.
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