This article appears in the June 2021 issue of the
PE GI Journal
A number of trends are motivating gastroenterologists to consider engaging with a corporate partner. Among them are industry consolidation, increased operating expenses, strenuous regulatory and reporting requirements, contracting complexity, new technology implementation, and, of course, the short- and long-term impact of the pandemic.
Even with these factors, proceeding with a corporate partnership is rarely an easy decision, says Cara Reymann, Market President for PE GI Solutions for the mid-Atlantic region. “It can be highly emotional when you have physicians who have been owners and operators of practices and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) for many years. Engaging a partner means not only creating a new relationship, but possibly needing to take a different approach to your business—there is a fear of losing control that is very difficult to overcome.”
When evaluating corporate partner options, using a checklist can better ensure a more disciplined process. “Having clarity on what you’re looking for and why you’re looking is one of the most valuable reasons to use a checklist,” Reymann says. “It also gives you a foundation for comparison of partnership models. This allows you to better assess the differences between entities and their services and how these align with your approach to patient care.”
4 Essential Checklist Criteria
The following are four criteria Reymann recommends gastroenterologists include in their corporate partner evaluation checklist.
- Personal objectives. Document what you hope to achieve by taking on a corporate partner. “As you begin your research, you’ll find there’s a lot of information to process, and it’s easy to become distracted,” Reymann says. “If you spend time before you engage in discussions to identify what matters to you, you will better set yourself up for success when selecting a partner.”
Objectives will be different for every gastroenterologist. There are those who have grown their practice value over many years and are now looking to convert that value as they near retirement. Then there are physicians who have many years of practice ahead and want a partner who will allow them to preserve independence. “Objectives will vary depending upon the individual and/or group and their personal and business goals,” Reymann says.
- Expertise. Expect to find a wide range of expertise during your search. As you learn about firms, work to gain an understanding of the depth and breadth of this expertise, Reymann says. “The type of expertise and how specialized it is matters greatly. Many people can execute on a function. Where I think the value of expertise matters is when you need to adapt to a new circumstance or implement a new ancillary. Understanding how to align all the details to the benefit of the physician group requires deep expertise and true partnership.”
For example, she notes that PE GI Solutions is focused on gastroenterology. The company’s depth of knowledge concerns gastroenterology and all the moving parts of being a gastroenterologist, including the practice, ASC, and ancillary services. “That specialized knowledge allows you to have a better understanding of the challenges GI physicians face in their day-to-day operation,” she says. “Since we have this specialized perspective and know those challenges intimately, we can respond more comprehensively.”
While Reymann says depth is what tends to set PE GI Solutions apart, the company’s breadth—which includes the experience and expertise in GI practice, ASC, and ancillary services—plays a pivotal role. “We’re able to share our holistic knowledge across all those different areas and have meaningful dialogue about how to drive the business forward because we understand how each piece connects to the whole. Even if you are only engaged with us for center management, you’re still getting the benefits of our expertise in GI practice and ancillary services.”
- Performance. It’s easy to talk the talk. But can a corporate partner you’re considering walk the walk? “Assessing a potential partner’s performance comes down to whether they’re actually delivering on the expertise they claim to possess and helping physicians work better and grow their business,” Reymann says.
This is an area where PE GI Solutions shines, she says, which was particularly apparent over the last year as gastroenterologists worked through the pandemic. For example, PE GI Solutions’ financial team helped partners navigate the Paycheck Protection Program and CARES Act Provider Relief Fund. “We were able to apply sophisticated financial modeling tools, which contemplated different scenarios,” Reymann says. “This helped our physicians understand what they needed to do for their businesses.”
As another example, PE GI Solutions helped source personal protective equipment (PPE) by leveraging relationships with group purchasing organizations. “We were able to deliver significant value by being engaged and understanding where we needed to achieve progress to help physician groups, offices, and centers be successful,” Reymann says.
- Quality. Without quality, the value of expertise and performance is greatly reduced, Reymann says. “Physicians spend their lives building their reputation. When they engage with a corporate partner, that partner has a responsibility to assist that physician and practice in a way that will honor and grow that reputation.”
To evaluate whether a corporate partner checks the box on quality, one area to focus on is support services. “With our managed services organization, we have clinical experts who inform the strategy and services we bring to our physician partners,” Reymann says. “For example, we have a compliance team that helped us navigate the concerns related to COVID-19, including how to appropriately screen patients and maintain staff and patient safety.”
When a corporate partner can deliver that quality component, it helps physicians uphold their commitment to safety. “You don’t want a partnership to compromise the reputation you have worked so hard to build in your community,” Reymann says.
Rely on References
Your checklist will help in your research into and discussions with corporate partners. It can take on greater value if you speak with peers about their experiences.
“Talking with someone who has been with a corporate partner for at least a year will provide a valuable perspective,” Reymann says. “Almost anyone can make something successful in the beginning. The ability to sustain alignment and success is where some of these partnership models will start to show their strengths and weaknesses.”
The PE GI Solutions model, Reymann says, considers physician alignment a long-term priority. “A huge part of being a physician is remaining independent and getting to choose the challenges you want to take on. When physicians partner with us, they maintain control over those decisions.”