Launching the MSO: Inside the Genesis of Canopy Partners

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Worth SaundersStephen WillisIn January 2011, Canopy Partners, a management-services organization (MSO), officially spun off from Greensboro Radiology in North Carolina. The large practice had been providing business, IT, and other nonclinical services to some of its partners and was working to diversify its offerings further. Worth Saunders, MHA, CEO of Canopy Partners, says, “We had a pretty good base of business under the Greensboro Radiology umbrella in IT expertise, PACS, voice recognition, workflow integration, and other solutions. We saw a great need to expand those offerings and thought a separate brand with an independent structure and governance would enable that growth.”

Stephen Willis, CIO of Canopy Partners, explains that the newly formed MSO saw a particularly promising opportunity in the need for IT customization. “We understand, from a physician’s perspective, what the difference is between an integrated product and a well-integrated product,” he notes. “We see examples of integration that are theoretically integrated, but cumbersome for physicians to use. We do things in a unique way and integrate to a level we don’t typically see in this industry. It’s our goal for the technology to serve the individual, not the other way around.”

Saunders breaks down the capabilities of Canopy Partners into two key offerings for clients: implementation services and integrated solutions. Both apply IT expertise to solve problems that remain difficult for many radiology organizations. “We take our expertise and use it to streamline IT, so radiologists and clinical personnel have the right information, at the right time, to deliver the best care and be the most efficient,” he says.

Empowering the RadiologistEric MansellEric Mansell, MD, PhD, who is president of Canopy Partners and Greensboro Radiology, delves more deeply into the integration needs that the MSO has identified. “From a radiologist’s perspective, we’ve been able to take all these different systems—PACS, voice recognition, electronic medical records, and hospital information systems—and integrate them in a way that moves the whole IT picture into the background,” he says. “As a radiologist, when you have a workflow that isn’t smooth, it distracts you from your job, which is image interpretation. You’re thinking about other things.”

Seizing on the importance of integration, Canopy Partners structured itself to have minimal boundaries between its staff members, who include IT professionals, software developers, PACS administrators, project managers, in-house revenue-cycle managers, and more. “We have to have divisions and departments, but we really work hard not to have them be silos,” Willis notes. “Our departments interact with one another daily to find the best possible solutions for our client organizations’ problems.”

Saunders notes that this internal integration is vital to providing the high level of service that is the goal of Canopy Partners. “Our culture has really been to understand the needs of the customer, and that started six to seven years ago with our work within Greensboro Radiology to improve radiology workflow through systems integration of PACS, voice recognition, revenue cycle management and so on,” he says. “It’s about understanding radiology’s needs, customizing solutions to meet those needs, and implementing those solutions in the best way.”

As a result, Mansell says, quality and efficiency are improved for radiology organizations. “The IT does for me much of what I might have to do for myself, otherwise,” he says. “Anytime you can remove human responsibility from the equation, you’re in a better position for standardization and error elimination. There’s almost no way for a mistake to happen, which frees me, as a radiologist, to focus on the work at hand.”

Empowering the Practice

IT integration has other applications within the practice, and Canopy Partners is focused on meeting those needs as well. “On the general practice-management side of the equation, we can help solve problems ranging from credentialing to accounting to financial analysis,” Saunders says. “We’ve been providing revenue-cycle management and other types of management services for practices in our region for a number of years.”

Saunders explains that consolidation in the radiology industry creates obstacles to effective decision making for practices. “Back in the day, when groups had eight or 10 physicians, everybody understood the same reality, in terms of what was going on with the