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While some have raised questions and concerns about a possible loss of autonomy with the increasing presence of private equity in radiology, this author says potential benefits of such an alliance, including access to new technologies, career development and a strong patient focus, go beyond the expected economies of scale.
Occasionally, I see posts and comments on social media critiquing the presence of private equity in medicine.
There are questions about the autonomy of physicians in those private equity-backed health-care practices and suggestions that there is a lack of investment in clinical innovation and research, just to name a few. Seeing these remarks makes me wonder: how can we share the other side of the story? In other words, what about the story of a physician in one of those private equity-backed practices? A story that is, in fact, my story.
As a practicing radiologist who also serves as Associate Chief Medical Officer, Recruitment for Radiology Partners (RP), part of my role is to talk about my experience working in a health-care practice that has true scale, even in a market like this one. When I talk to trainees, I get a sense they fear the unknown. They see negative comments and are concerned about being only a number in a health-care practice supported by private equity, but that could not be further from my experience (and that of my colleagues).
In addition to my role with Radiology Partners, I practice at ARA Diagnostic Imaging in Austin, Texas, which joined Radiology Partners in 2019. The leadership at ARA Diagnostic Imaging sought a national partner because we realized it was the direction many medical specialties were headed. Being an associate on track to partnership at that time, I had the opportunity to have a front row seat in the process. I (and others) noticed something interesting: ARA was actually calling the shots. These conversations eventually led to the integration with Radiology Partners. After ARA ultimately partnered with Radiology Partners, that style of partnership continued, emphasizing the idea that Radiology Partners really is “One Practice, Locally Led.”
That model rings true across the country. Radiology Partners serves as one practice to help its local practices. While Radiology Partners is providing access to cutting-edge technology for local practices who may not have the resources or offering the most recent research and best practice recommendations, the main governance of the local practice remains local. We know that no one knows their communities better than its own local physician practice, and Radiology Partners is there to be the support on a national level.
Another example of how Radiology Partners optimizes its scale is the investment in artificial intelligence (AI) tools that create efficiencies for our radiologists. These tools are not intended to make radiologists work harder. They actually make it easier for radiologists. The AI tools also benefit patients by offering quicker and enhanced result reports. If these tools lead to a radiologist reading more studies, this benefits everyone: patients, the local practice and referring providers.
There is also significant investment in our people. We encourage radiologists and support teammates to prioritize mental health, offering wellness seminars, coaching and spaces for teammates to connect. There are numerous opportunities to take leadership and development courses and serve on committees and boards that support different aspects of the practice. This is all to promote the health and well-being of our people and invest in our personal and professional growth. I have been at ARA Diagnostic Imaging for less than five years, and in that time, Radiology Partners has allowed me to tremendously expand my skills and abilities.
A true mainstay for Radiology Partners is that we are a practice, not a company. This core tenet is apparent in everything we do and how we are structured. Yes, part of being a practice means there are partners, but senior partners are not the only ones who benefit by joining a practice with scale. Yes, there is a vesting period, but this is not unique to private equity. Academic settings also require a certain number of years to achieve tenure as a professor. A vesting period is not a gimmick. It is a way to ensure talented physicians are committed for the long run within Radiology Partners. A career as a radiologist, not only within Radiology Partners, is indeed a marathon, not a sprint.
One of my favorite things about Radiology Partners is that we start all practice-wide meetings with one of our radiologists sharing the story of a patient save. Why? Our priority is the safety and quality of care for our patients, and we always start and come back to that focus. Radiology Partners hands us the tools and provides the support so we can continue to move forward with our passion and goals: to be the best radiologists possible, provide top quality patient care and ultimately transform radiology.
That is the story I want to share.
Dr. Saravanan is the Associate Chief Medical Officer, Recruitment for Radiology Partners. She is a breast radiologist in private practice at ARA Diagnostic Imaging in Austin, Texas.