Sacramento Medical Group Puts Hospitalists Into Operating Room


A growing Sacramento company takes a booming new medical specialty — hospitalists — into the operating room.

Surgical Affiliates Management Group provides trauma, emergency room and orthopedic specialists who perform acute care surgeries as needed around the clock.

Founded in 1996, Surgical Affiliates is one of the first surgical hospitalist companies in the nation. It now runs 25 programs in 12 locations — including six in the Sacramento area — has a presence in New York and is looking to expand into Louisiana and Texas.

The company has 165 employees, close to half of them in the Sacramento region. Executives would not disclose annual revenue, but projected a 15.5 percent increase in 2016.

“It’s about emergency surgery as a specialty in a model that decreases variation and improves quality of care,” said Dr. Leon Owens, CEO of the company and former founding director of the Level II trauma center at Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael.

“It’s a form of workforce specialization. If a surgeon does elective surgery, emergency surgery interrupts the flow of that work,” Owens said. “If surgeons are dedicated to the work they are doing, that leads to better outcomes and a more organized approach.”

Surgical Affiliates has a couple of large national competitors: Dallas-based EmCare and Knoxville, Tennessee-based TeamHealth. The company has 131 providers. Most are doctors but the total includes some nurse practitioners and physician assistants. A small number of company-run clinics provide short-term follow-up care to patients after discharge.

Surgical Affiliates established a program at Sutter Medical Center Sacramento in 2007. There, surgery patients are co-managed with members of the hospitalist program, said Sutter’s Dr. Michael Abate.

Five-year results published in the July 2014 issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons show that the program is working. In that time: General surgery length of stay declined 23 percent.

Complications dropped 43 percent.

Hospital costs decreased by 31 percent — suggesting potential savings of about $2 million in a single year for a hospital of this type and size.

Dr. Glenn Koh joined Surgical Affiliates last year. He likes shift work and the administrative support he gets from the company. He typically performs two or three surgeries a day, ranging from gallbladder removal to colonoscopy procedures.  “I’ve never been happier,” Koh said. “I’m part of a team using best practices not driven by billing.”