Radiology Practices

A Problem with Private Equity

Dr. Glaucomflecken

The funniest physician on the internet, ophthalmologist and comedian Dr. Glaucomflecken, sparked quite a debate over private equity’s healthcare impact last week with this banger of a Valentine’s Day tweet:

“Every physician who sells their practice to private equity is choosing to make health care worse for everybody. I hope the money helps you sleep at night, because you have made life worse for every single patient and employee walking into your PE Daddy’s practice.”

Within three days, Dr. Glaucomflecken’s attack on healthcare PE garnered 1.2M views, 1,150 retweets, and 12k likes, while inspiring some telling conversations about private equity’s impact on radiology.

RadTwitter’s many private equity critics

  • Celebrated one of their biggest concerns gaining viral attention
  • Warned that this trend is putting MBAs in control of patient care
  • Theorized that PE is “driving physician satisfaction into the ground”
  • Highlighted PE-backed rad practices’ staffing/retention challenges
  • Joked that Dr. Glaucomflecken is now uninvited from the ACR meeting

Meanwhile, a few brave radiology PE leaders and defenders….

  • Countered that Dr. Glaucomflecken’s post was unfairly broad
  • Emphasized the challenges that private practices face on their own
  • Reasoned that health systems just are as money-driven, and worse at leading practices
  • Contended that PE improves radiology access in rural areas (others disputed this)
  • Inferred that PE is “in the arena” working to improve care, while critics sit on the sidelines

The hundreds of other comments from non-radiologists in the Dr. Glaucomflecken thread made many of the same arguments about their specialties, while revealing an overall consensus that the healthcare incentive system is flawed, insurer influence is playing a big role in practice consolidation, and many physician practices aren’t in a position to exclusively sell to physician owned/led organizations. 

The Takeaway

Regardless where you stand in the healthcare private equity debate, Dr. Glaucomflecken’s Twitter responses make it very clear that providers are concerned about the state of U.S. healthcare economics. That same discussion thread also might contain more ideas about areas that the U.S. healthcare system should improve than any published report we’ll cover this year.

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