It’s been half a year since RadAnalytics last heard from Scott Luchs, MD, president of Ramapo Radiology Associates in New York State’s Hudson Valley. At that time, he had just presented at a webinar in which he extolled the advantages of radiology group joint ventures (JVs).
Luchs knows the topic well. He and Joseph L. Racanelli, MD, president of Radiologic Associates, also in the Hudson Valley region, have spent much of the past year leading the meshing of their groups to form the 37-radiologist joint venture Empire Health Support Services, LLC.
The JV is now online with a patient-friendly website, EmpireHSS.com, and Luchs sounds more convinced than ever that the JV option is a sure bet for independent groups wanting to maintain their independence through 2015 and beyond. He spoke with RadAnalytics at some length in March. Here are key excerpts from the conversation.
First, please quickly catch us up on your progress with the JV since last fall.
Luchs: Just like with any startup business, the trajectory is never straight up. There are always bumps along the way. However, all in all it has been incredibly exciting and incredibly successful. We are at the point now where we are recruiting member groups to join Empire and increase its size and scope.
I use the word recruit somewhat lightly, because a number of these groups heard about us and what we’re doing, and they have come to us. Everyone who has heard about this, whether it was through the webinar or just word-of-mouth, has been excited about the concept. We are in discussions with a number of group practices interested in joining Empire for the purpose of better positioning their practice with their hospitals and systems as well to take advantage of the expense savings opportunities we can bring them.
From a business start-up standpoint, it takes a while to get organized. The professionals at Integrated Radiology Partners (IRP), as well as our practice business leaders, have invested valuable time building this from the bottom up and making sure every step was appropriately taken. The guiding principal has been to enable Empire to succeed both in creating a well-run physician driven service enterprise designed to augment and reinforce the strategy of our hospitals as well as to recruit new forward-thinking groups to build scale and resources required to execute our strategy and fulfill our business plan.
And that’s where we are right now. The foundation is pretty much built. We are raring to go, and things are looking great.
Are the interested groups located within your geographic market area?
Luchs: Yes and no. We can all define the concept of region in our own way. Of the groups we are in discussions with, the majority are within our immediate geographic market as I have traditionally thought of our market in. The others are more up-state. Thinking ahead of how markets are now being defined, where large hospital systems are forming affiliations even across state lines, I would answer they are all in our geographic market – the state of New York. We are more than willing to speak with any practice that feels it might be able to benefit from what we have to offer and that might be able to add something to our growing joint venture, regardless where they might be located in the state.
How are you measuring your progress and your success?
Luchs: At this point, it’s too early for us to have any hard numbers or metrics. We’re still in the first phase of growth. The success that we are having so far has been measured by subjective criteria. What has spoken to us the loudest is that every hospital administration with whom we have spoken to let them know that the JV is the direction we’re taking—every single one of them—has been effusive in their praises of us for doing this.
It goes without saying that every radiology group we’ve spoken to has been very excited as well. Of course, no one is perfect. Metrics are hugely important, and analytics are a very big part of what we’re doing. The more groups you have, the more hard data you have, the more measurements you can make, the more, the better. But coupled with effusive encouragement from your hospital partners, their expressed willingness to do anything they can do to help us—right now, that’s as good as any hard metric that we can, and will, get.
What do you think explains the excitement within the hospitals over your JV?
Luchs: Radiology practices, as all medical practices really, have traditionally been inwardly