59 Takeaways from The GI Roundtable 2019

59 Takeaways from The GI Roundtable 2019

Our new book Private Equity in Gastroenterology – Navigating the Next Wave is still available for download. Here was the best compliment we got to date: “I need my entire board to read this!”
GI Roundtable 2019
If you aren’t already feeling the tremors of GI disruption, you soon will.
Regardless of whether you are a small, independent practice or a large group, you might not be so sure where the future of GI is going. You might be wondering what should you be doing now and not finding clear answers.
Just know that you are not alone.
This past weekend, we were at The GI Roundtable 2019 in Seattle. It was a congregation of GI leaders (both doctors and administrators) from various parts of the country. Discussions spanned from clinical to business.
There were plenty of insights.
There were at least 59 takeaways that caught my attention.
As Dr. Irving Pike (from John Muir Health) said during his keynote, we can take three approaches to these changes:
1. Digging our heads in the sand and ignoring them
2. Working harder and faster, faster, and even faster
3. Or a more thoughtful and planned approach.
The idea of sharing these insights is so that we choose option #3 as an industry.
Takeaways from Irving Pike, MD, Senior Vice President and CMO at John Muir Health. Instrumental in the development of GIQuIC quality registry.
1. Aging population = Greater proportion of CMS. You already know that CMS pays you less than commercial payors. This means decreased future compensation.
2. If screening colonoscopy declines, what alternative income streams do you have?
3. “Don’t think for a minute what’s impacting hospitals and health systems has nothing to do with your GI practice”
4. Get lean…get rid of waste and reduce your costs.
5. Medicare Advantage enrollment has grown from 6.9 million in 1999 to 20.4 million in 2018. It can reach 70% penetration (per L.E.K Consulting).
6. Increased Medicare means greatest pressure on provider payments. Out of $680 billion increase from 2018 to 2027 in Medicare expenditures, $269 billion is from providers.
7. GI doctors will need to develop ancillary revenues to survive what’s to follow.
8. Unprecedented mega-mergers. United-DaVita. Walmart-Humana. CVS-Aetna. Cigna-Express Scripts.
9. New interest from outsiders. Apple. Alphabet (Google). Lyft. Amazon.
10. New healthcare consumers – 74% of Millennials prefer virtual visits.
11. Direction of payments is moving from Treatment-based to Population-based. Fee for service ► Pay for performance ► Bundled payments ► Global payments for a population ► “Owning” lives.
12. Move from volume to value. Define clinical pathways and reduce variation. Use Quality indicators. Become more transparent with PCPs, insurers and health systems.
13. As of 2018, half of US GI doctors are now employed and the other half is independent. Someone said, if you are getting paid by Medicare, you are already employed.
14. Bring focus to patient engagement and brand building.
15. Use telehealth, advanced EHRs, diagnostic technology.
16. Location (metro or rural) will drive new practice models – from PE to large clinics.
17. Bigger is NOT better without a clear strategy. Bigger can be better because of economies of scale, single signature contracts, new infrastructure, sub-specialization.
18. Physician concerns about Private Equity. Autonomy, autonomy, autonomy. Not everyone will be treated equally. Operating agreement can be non-binding. Change in culture.
19. There will be multiple practice models existing at the same time depending on local circumstances.
Takeaways from Jason Dominitz, MD, MHS, National Program Director for Gastroenterology in the Veterans Health Administration
1. An estimated 145,600 adults in the United States diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2018. Estimated mortality: 51,020.
2. Screening adherence is only 65%. For non-colonoscopy tests, abnormal results aren’t always followed up with colonoscopy. When colonoscopy is done, quality is often lacking.
3. We are doing too much screening colonoscopy. Low quality after screening is leading to additional testing (missed adenomas are common).
4. In a study, each 1% increase in ADR was associated with 3% decrease in risk of cancer (Corley NEJM 2014).
5. To increase ADR. Expose more colonic mucosa (complete insertion of scope, better bowel preparation, field view of screen, uncover “covered areas), increase recognition of pathology.
6. If you are not meeting benchmarks, there are techniques and tools to help.
7. New guidelines for screening colonoscopy are coming.
8. Colonoscopy can be like speeding on the highway…what risk are you willing to take for your patients?
Takeaways on business of gastroenterology – Reed Hogan, MD (GI Associates & Endoscopy Center, Jackson, MS), Joseph Cappa, MD (Connecticut GI, Bloomfield, CT), James Leavitt, MD (Gastro Health, Miami, FL), James Weber, MD (Texas Digestive Disease Consultants, Dallas, TX), Louis Wilson, MD (Wichita Falls Gastroenterology Associates, Wichita Falls, TX)
1. Reimbursements will drop. Diversify your portfolio and be prepared for changes in payment models. (Dr. Joe Cappa)
2. Strategic planning is not always about scale. It’s also about maintaining quality of life and focusing on doctor-patient relationships. (Dr. Louis Wilson)
3. Negotiating rates with payors is really about building relationships. Seek 1-3 year contracts and do it on a schedule. If they say no, come back to them 6 months later. (Dr. Louis Wilson)
4. Patient satisfaction, ADR, outpatient use of endoscopies all roll into developing relationships with your key payors. (Dr. Joe Cappa)
5. If you are a solo practice, you need to be outsourcing. Use consultants. Take advantage of the structures that someone else has built. (Dr. Louis Wilson)
6. In large cities like Dallas, San Antonio, solo practices are dying. They’ll be busy but they’ll get paid 70% of Medicare to do their work. It’s unfair. They are getting squeezed out. We get 200% of Medicare rates. (Dr. Jim Weber)
7. Rural areas, sub-urban areas you can survive as a small or solo practice. May be because things are less complex. (Dr. Jim Leavitt)
8. As gastroenterologists, you must view the site-of-service differential as an opportunity to align yourself with them (hospitals) – they are going to need you. The repercussions are going to hit us in unpredictable ways – not what you think. (Dr. Louis Wilson)
9. In partnering with hospitals, control the patient and ancillaries. More than 50% of physician income streams come from ancillaries for us. (Dr. Jim Weber)
10. Hospitals view GI as a cost center. But if we have them on our payroll, they can achieve what they want on the inpatient side. (Dr. Joe Cappa)
11. One advantage of being large is you can provide a range of services that hospitals need. (Dr. Jim Leavitt)
12. Even if you break-even on ancillaries, you must have them. It’s great for the practice and the patient.
13. Patients are willing to pay cash for dietitians, for higher quality of care.
14. Simple things like imaging bring great satisfaction. I don’t send them to the ER, they walk across the hall to get their CT, walk to the pharmacy…then they refer their family for screening colonoscopy. (Dr. Jim Leavitt)
15. Infusion centers are great for the practice, great for patients. With larger volumes, your profit margin goes up.
16. Think of payors as customers.
Takeaways on EHR, your staff, patients and you – Daniel O’Connell, PhD, clinical psychologist
1. Have a 5 min huddle before your morning schedule and after your afternoon schedule with your MA.
2. Key things to know before you see the patient – name, date last seen in clinic, who they saw, name of the referring provider, reason for referral. “A doctor should know what’s knowable.”
3. Patients don’t have a problem with a computer. Convey that it’s a “tool for us”. Set up the room in such a way that the doctor, patient and computer are in a triangle.
4. Take 90 seconds and finish up 2/3rd of your note when the patient’s there or right after. Go home for dinner.
5. Take the first 60 seconds to set an agenda and say, let’s make a list of things you want to go over with me today.
6. Magic is when patients leave thinking they are making an informed decision.
7. A good scribe can have more impact than an MA. A scribe (e.g. pre-med student) can start becoming an extension of the care team.
8. Empathy: seeing from their perspective without judging. Cognitive empathy: Demonstrate you understand their thinking. Emotional empathy: Demonstrate you recognize and respect their emotions.
Takeaways on Private Equity in Gastroenterology – Joe Cappa, MD, Jim Leavitt, MD, Jim Weber, MD, Louis Wilson, MD
1. We are in the process of evaluating and understanding this (private equity) a little bit better. What does it mean for younger physician? It also depends on the geography, environment around you, trends of medicine. (Dr. Joe Cappa)
2. There are some risks you can’t predict. Deal team issues. We have 4 out of 7 doctors who have 30+ year window. They are entirely asymmetric. (Dr. Louis Wilson)
3. Alignment is critical.
4. We did our private equity deal to ensure we would remain independent. Anyone who’s tried to consolidate with other groups knows it’s very hard work. PE is a catalyst for consolidation. (Dr. Jim Leavitt)
5. The business of medicine is different from the practice of medicine. Most doctors are happy to give up control of the business of medicine. (Dr. Jim Weber)
6. Nobody wants to be a doctor except the doctor. Payors, hospitals, PE companies don’t want to take the meat out of someone’s esophagus on Friday night. (Dr. Louis Wilson)
7. If you are going to have autonomy, you need to have skin in the game. (Dr. Jim Weber)
8. It’s hard as hell to be a platform. (Dr. Jim Weber)
9. If you want to do PE, go buy a blue blazer because they all wear them. And be prepared to answer the question, what keeps you up at night because everyone will ask you that. (Dr. Jim Weber)
10. Wear your empirical skeptic hat. Keep your options open. Future of GI is still very bright. (Dr. Louis Wilson)
11. There are at least 10 deals underway across the country, including acquisitions by practice management companies.
12. In April 2019, Gastro Health made its first out-of-state acquisition in Alabama.
Yes, there’s too much happening too fast. The future of GI entails forgetting what we know more than learning something new. I’m reminded of these lines from Yuval Noah Harari’s new book, 21 lessons for the 21st Century.
“To survive and flourish in such a world, you will need a lot of mental flexibility and great reserves of emotional balance. You will have to repeatedly let go of some of what you know best, and learn to feel at home with the unknown.”


By Praveen Suthrum, President & Co-Founder, NextServices.

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