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Frequently asked questions



Can I call for an appointment at the Salem Health Spine Center?

No. The Salem Health Spine Center service does not schedule any appointments. This service is available only with a referral from your primary care practitioner (PCP) or specialist you may be seeing. If you do not yet have a PCP, you can search our  provider directory to find one who fits your needs and is accepting new patients.


What is the length of time I can expect to wait to be contacted by the Salem Health Spine Center after I am referred?

Our goal is to reach out to you within seven business days of receiving your completed referral (imaging, chart notes).


What information is gathered during the phone intake?

Our intake coordinators will ask questions about basic demographic information, referring provider, PCP, insurance, health history, current symptoms, additional imaging and past treatments.


How does the Salem Health Spine Center receive my imaging?

The Salem Health Spine Center can request the images from your referring doctor or directly from the imaging center if possible. If needed, we will ask you to pick up your images on a CD and deliver/mail them to us.

Keep in mind, we can’t begin reviewing your medical history until we have all images available for the spine specialist to view.


Can I just bring my imaging in when I come in for my appointment?

No. The neurosurgeon at the Salem Health Spine Center needs to review your medical information and images ahead of time. By reviewing your images and history, we can give you the quickest and most appropriate care.


Will the Salem Health Spine Center address my employment status?

If you have not yet seen one of our neurosurgeons, you will need to contact your primary care provider regarding your work situation. If you are seen by one of our providers, they will address your work status during your appointment.


Will the Salem Health Spine Center address any of my medication issues?

You will need to contact your referring doctor or primary care provider regarding your medication issues. If the neurosurgeon recommends medications during the review, this recommendation will be sent to your referring provider for consideration.   


Can the neurosurgeon evaluate my condition by reviewing my medical information without seeing me in the office?

Yes. They evaluate your condition based on your medical history, images and test results. This is often much faster than scheduling an office visit. The neurosurgeon then provides an initial impression and treatment plan.

The treatment plan may recommend you see a specific specialist (e.g., a physical therapist, interventional pain specialist or physiatrist), complete additional tests or an appointment in their office.


How long before I hear something back?

In most cases, the neurosurgeon reviews your information within a few business days of receiving your complete information (medical history, intake information, images, etc.). Once the specialist provides an impression and recommendation, the nurse navigator will call you to advise you of the recommendation (typically within 2 weeks or less) and next steps.


Does anyone at Salem Health Spine Center see me in person?

No. We do not physically see patients in the Spine Center. The Salem Health Spine Center is a triage service that gathers the necessary information (history, interview, imaging, past treatments) for the neurosurgeon to review and make their medical recommendation.

If an appointment is recommended, the Salem Health Spine Center will facilitate scheduling with the specialist (physiatrist, interventional pain, neurosurgeon). You will see the specialist at their regular office.


If I need an appointment with the neurosurgeon, will I see the doctor in person?

Yes. We will facilitate scheduling the earliest appointment possible with the neurosurgeon. You may also see the neurosurgeon’s physician assistant (PA) if that is the recommendation. The PA works closely with the neurosurgeon in the office along with assisting during surgery.


Will my insurance cover my visit?

The Salem Health Spine Center review process is a free service, which includes gathering your records and imaging, completing an intake interview and providing you with the neurosurgeon’s recommendation. All of this is done online and over the phone.

If an appointment is recommended, please contact your insurance company to verify your coverage and the level of benefits provided by your particular policy.


What is a spine specialist?

Spine specialists have the expertise and training to evaluate spine problems, identify pathological processes through history, examination, and studies, and advise treatment plans.

Different types of spine specialists have different areas of expertise based on their training. These include neurosurgeon spine specialists, physical medicine spine specialists, interventional medicine spine specialists, and physical therapists who focus on spine care.

Other medical specialists help provide essential support, input, evaluation and treatment of spine center patients since other medical issues can complicate and aggravate spine problems, and other systemic medical problems can appear as spine problems.


What is a physiatrist?

A physiatrist, also called a physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) physician, is a medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of all types of physical disabilities. Physiatrists specialize in restoring optimal function to people with injuries to the muscles, bones, tissues and nervous system. A physiatrist can also be dual-certified as an interventional pain specialist.


What is an interventional pain specialist?

An interventional pain specialist receives advanced training in interventional pain management. They assess your condition, discuss treatment options, and build a plan that is right for you. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Epidural injections. Done in all areas of the spine. The anesthetic and steroid medications are injected into the epidural space to relieve pain or diagnose a specific condition.
  • Medial branch block or facet blocks. To reduce inflammation and pain.


Does the Salem Health Spine Center only contract with Salem Health medical care providers?

The Salem Health Spine Center does not have contracts with any specific providers. We use a network of spine specialists for referrals. Each has his/her own practice.

We refer patients to medical care providers who have the required credentials and licenses to treat patients.


What insurance do you accept?

The Salem Health Spine Center’s services are free of charge. We accept most insurances, with the exceptions of a few that are not accepted by the neurosurgeon’s office. However, it is the patient’s responsibility to contact their insurance company and verify coverage for treatments prior to any appointments recommended by our service.


How long does it take to get an appointment for my patient? What if it is an urgent case?

In most cases, the Salem Health Spine Center will contact your patient for the intake within 7 business days from receiving the referral. The neurosurgeon reviews the patient’s information (medical history, images, etc.) within a few days of receiving it. If the neurosurgeon recommends an appointment in their office, they will decide if the patient’s symptoms indicate an urgent appointment (one to four days), an expedited appointment (one to two weeks) or the first available appointment.


Does the Spine Center take STAT or Emergent referrals?

No, due to the triage review process of the Salem Health Spine Center, we do not accept STAT or Emergent referrals. If you feel your patient needs to be evaluated in an emergent manner, please contact the Neurosurgeon on call.


What is the benefit of using the Salem Health Spine Center?

With approximately 20 percent of patients requiring surgery, the triage process allows neurosurgeons to review your patient's information and imaging in an efficient manner, increasing access for surgical patients to be seen in clinic and reducing overall healthcare costs to your patient by getting them to the appropriate conservative specialist.


What percentage of patients sent to Salem Health Spine Center have spine surgery?

Conversion rates to surgery are typically lower than 20 percent and often as low as 10 percent.


Does my staff need to order imaging and send it to the Salem Health Spine Center?

If you would like a neurosurgeon to review your patient’s record, then a recent MRI/CT (within one year) of the appropriate spine level must be provided.

If you do not have completed imaging for your patient and Salem Health Spine Center has your referral, we can work with you and your patient to order imaging or track down existing imaging.


May additional imaging be required after neurosurgeon review?

Sometimes our neurosurgeon’s will request additional imaging to help evaluate potential surgical cases. Depending on the patient's insurance requirements, we may reach out to your office to help out with authorization and ordering of these additional tests.


How much will it cost me to use the Salem Health Spine Center? How much will it cost my patient?

There are no out-of-pocket costs to you or your patient to use Salem Health Spine Center services. We are committed to serving our community by helping spine patients get treatment faster.

We do not personally see or treat patients at the Salem Health Spine Center. We facilitate the process, so patients are reviewed faster by a neurosurgeon and get the appropriate treatment as early as possible.


How do I keep track of my patient’s diagnosis and recommendation once I have referred them to the Salem Health Spine Center?

Our nurse navigators will send you the neurosurgeon’s report, including the initial impressions and treatment recommendations. This report is also available in Epic under the Spine Center encounter.