by Lisa Chamoff
, Contributing Reporter | December 06, 2022
A session at the RSNA annual meeting posited whether co-signing with private equity is good for the future of radiology. Dr. Gavin Slethaug, an interventional radiologist for Honor Health/Southwest Medical Imaging (SMIL)/Southwest Diagnostic Imaging (SDI) in Arizona, said the right question to ask was whether the access to capital was good for radiology.
"And the answer is 'yes,' " Slethaug said. "Capital allows scaled investments, scaled investments in a consolidating ecosystem, investments into differentiated clinical programs, investments into AI and IT, investments into physician, leadership development, investments into people — processes, relationships, and investments in diversification — diversification of markets, diversification of payers, diversification of health systems. And scaled investments are good for patients."
Slethaug spoke about Radiology Partners’ partnership with the company Aidoc to run over 50 million exams through an AI program, which costs millions of dollars to run and support and necessitates access to capital.
"It's well worth it on behalf of 3,000 radiologists," Slethaug said.
Radiation groups could theoretically access capital on their own, in the form of bank loans, but practically it doesn’t happen, Slethaug said. Partners in radiology practices also may be in different parts of their careers and have a different attitude toward taking on debt.
“If you're interested in this, you know this practice model, pick the right investor, make sure they're aligned to goals and your mission,” Slethaug said.
Dr. Kurt Schoppe, a radiologist with Radiology Associates of North Texas and soon to be the president of the practice, urged more scrutiny in light of the relationship with the patient in healthcare.
"We need to understand the incentives and the motivation of administrators and investors, and that they are not the same as ours," Schoppe said.
Radiologists in private practice should also consider how private investment impacts income.
"What are you getting in return for giving this up?" Schoppe said. "That's your question. And who's making the decisions about what to do with it?"