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Preparing for Health Care’s Consolidation

By Jim Knaub

“Health care was a fragmented industry for decades,” said Triad Radiology CEO Theodore Kerner, MD, in a panel discussion session at the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA) Radiology Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina, earlier this month. “That is changing.”

Integration is happening, and radiologists need to understand imaging’s role in that integration—and then do something to ensure their practices have a role in the evolving delivery of health care services. Or as Kerner told the audience, “Staying at home and circling the wagons will produce undesirable results.”

Consolidation can take the form of larger groups, hospital-employed practices, and so-called corporate radiology groups powered by teleradiology. So where might a traditional modest-sized group fit into the emerging world? That’s what each group must work out and pursue. To paraphrase the comment heard many times at RBMA: If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu.

So where does a small to mid-size group start this process? Over dinner, according to neuroradiologist Joseph L. Racanelli, MD, another panelist at the RBMA summit.

“The way we started was two guys sitting at the dinner table,” Racanelli said. “That’s all it was: myself and my counterpart at the other practice. ‘What are your problems? What are my problems? What are our problems?’ After a while, we realized we both had the same problems.”

He said that led to the next meeting, where “he brought his business guy and I brought my business guy, and it was the four of us sitting there.”

That led to more discussion among each group’s partners and, eventually, between the groups to begin developing a regional joint venture designed to preserve each group’s independence but gave them a greater combined presence.

“We had more meetings and that’s what got the ball rolling, but it started with one dinner,” Racanelli said.

But it did start, which is the step many practices must take.

Jim Knaub is editor of Radiology Today.