Practice Diversity: Seeking Higher Vistas in New Ventures

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Four-and-a-half years ago, Greensboro Radiology (Winston Salem, N.C.) sought to expand its roster of IT consulting, PACS, voice recognition, workflow integration and other solutions. Instead of following a conventional route, it officially spun off Canopy Partners, a management-services organization (MSO) that today serves 12 hospitals, five imaging centers, and several dozen physician practices—and is still in expansion mode.

At the same time, Minneapolis Radiology Associates (Plymouth, Minn.) has in recent years, rolled out new service lines that do not fall into the category of radiology subspecialties. It also is involved in at least one unique joint venture agreement.

Welcome to the new era of diversification—one in which radiology practices are not stopping at the addition of traditional service lines (e.g., staple subspecialty services) and acquiring outpatient imaging centers in an effort to generate additional revenues. Today, “diversification,” within the context of the radiology specialty can be defined as, “providing a variety of services to an array of consumers and clients so that no one single consumer can significantly alter our business objective and belief—which is the independent private practice of high-quality radiology services,” says Bill Ziemke, JD, LLM, MBA, CPA and CEO, University Radiology Group (East Brunswick, N.J.). Under this umbrella, radiology practices continue to build upon new means of expanding their reach, on the operational and clinical sides alike.

“At a time when financial pressure is coming from all sides and practices are being bought up right and left, diversification (initiatives) must remain on the list,” notes Troy J. Roovers, CEO, Minneapolis Radiology Associates and Minneapolis Vascular Physicians. Summing up the views of several administrators and physicians contacted by Radiology Business Journal, Roovers notes that although it is neither possible nor advisable for radiology practices to capitalize on every diversification opportunity, they should probably pursue some of the newer avenues if they are to thrive, remain independent and decrease their reliance on professional fees.

New directions

A significant portion of new diversification lies within the operational space, and Canopy Partners—which CEO Worth Saunders, MHA, says was created as a separate brand with an independent structure and governance in order to best support its growth—constitutes a key example. The company’s scope of services has grown to span four areas built around Greensboro Radiology’s core competencies: enterprise imaging workflow (including, but not limited to integrated PACS, VR, and worklist solutions); revenue cycle management; business intelligence (through a real-time Web analytics platform), and clinical IT solutions.

Among Greensboro’s newest attempts at branching outward is what Saunders calls a diversification-within-a-diversification, RezHealth, LLC, a next-generation vendor-neutral cloud-based healthcare data archive. RezHealth is a joint venture of Canopy Partners and Varrow, a vendor of cloud services, mobility and security solutions and services.

Minneapolis Radiology Associates and Triad Radiology Associates (Winston Salem, N.C.) have also taken a deep-dive into the MSO space in a push to diversify. The former has expanded its Medical Billing Services (MBS) medical billing arm to provide assistance with credentialing and provider enrollment, initial practice setup, fee schedule analysis, contract negotiations, technology services and more. These services are available a la carte or in bundled form.

Triad Radiology Associates’ MSO Radiant Healthcare Solutions also has an IT focus, offering  hosted radiology solutions (PACS and RIS, among others). In addition, it provides HL7 consulting and development, for the purpose of building interfaces between physician office electronic medical record (EMR) systems, laboratories, imaging centers and hospital information systems. Custom healthcare technology solutions and services offered by Radiant encompass unified worklists for multiple PACS, code critical reporting, meaningful use attestation, radiology workflow analysis and design, radiology systems reviews/needs assessments and RFP consulting.

“A lot of this work is facilitated by collaborative efforts with vendors, and the backbone is a highly skilled staff,” observes Triad Radiology Associates CEO Theodore C. “Ted” Kerner, Jr., MD.

‘Tool and die shops’

For some radiology practices,