Marrying ASCs + office-based labs — 5 Qs with Cardiovascular Centers CEO Tim Price

Cardiovascular Centers of America plans to open cardiovascular outpatient centers across the country, according to Tim Price, the management company's CEO.

Mr. Price spoke to Becker's ASC Review about the company's vision and today's cardiovascular opportunities.

Note: Responses have been edited for style and clarity.

Question: Can you tell me about Cardiovascular Centers of America and its partnership with St. Louis Cardiovascular Institute and St. Louis Specialty Surgery Center? 

Tim Price: CCOA was founded earlier this year by Dr. William Reilly [MD], who's an interventional cardiologist. He has a history of building medical facilities, including cardiac catheterization labs. He was a founding member of St. Louis Cardiovascular Institute, which is an office-based lab, and St. Louis Specialty Surgery Center — that's an ASC. Those two entities operate out of the same physical building in St. Louis.

The office-based lab has eight physician partners using that space. They lease time in there as their own office-based lab. [Our model] is truly leading edge at this point. There's the hybrid model where you operate at different times in the ASC and the office-based lab. We've taken that one step further and have [an] office-based lab side-by-side with an ASC. Those operate concurrently.

Q: What's CCOA's vision?

TP: We wanted to create a platform for physicians to build and run their outpatient cardiovascular businesses. The timing right now [is ideal], with Medicare approving diagnostic catheterizations to be done in the ASC setting, as well as more cases in the office-based lab. We really believe that this is going to be the trajectory of the business. Dr. Reilly and other cardiologists we talk to are constantly struggling with operating and running these office-based labs. In the future, we believe they're going to need to either be partners in or operate ASCs.

We created CCOA to provide the services that we're going to provide at St. Louis Cardiovascular Institute and St. Louis Specialty Surgery Center to other cardiovascular businesses. Recently, we announced official partnerships with [those two entities], and we contracted with [Moberly, Mo.-based] Centric Heart & Vascular. They are a hybrid facility that's currently an office-based lab, and they're seeking accreditation as an ASC as well. Those are our first two sites — they represent four entities, technically, but they're two physical sites. We're in discussions with others right now as well to bring them under management.

Q: Becker's has covered numerous orthopedic-focused partnerships recently, but there haven't been as many in the cardiovascular space. Can you expand on that concept?

TP: We view where cardiology is right now to be where cardiovascular will be in 20 years. We want to help bring that forth. There's about 650-plus of these office-based labs — they open up almost every month. The majority do mostly vascular and don't even touch heart. But we believe in a more holistic [approach], treating all of the cardiovascular system in these facilities. What that does is it brings your cardiologists into the mix. Right now, 70-plus percent of cardiologists are hospital-employed. Becker's has articles all the time about how burned out these hospital-employed physicians are, their pay going down, the administrative burdens that get put in place. They look at their brethren on the orthopedic side, and they're jealous, frankly. Orthopedic guys make half their money just from being part of these facilities. There's no reason [cardiologists] shouldn't have that same model going forward.

Our initial push is to get existing centers under management and provide services. Objective No. 2 is to develop new sites with cardiologists that are currently either employed or just have a small office-based practice, to actually build out these spaces and create new outpatient centers that are cardiology- and cardiovascular-focused. We believe in that specialty model.

Q: What's your timeline for those strategic initiatives?

TP: Our goal would be to have about 30 centers under management in the next three years. That's our current objective. We think we can build out a few centers per year. So, within five years, we'd have 30 centers and 10 that are new, ground-up developments. If we can scale faster, we'd love to, but that's our goal right now. Our focus initially is Missouri, where we were founded, [but] we're actually far into negotiations with sites in other states. We're not public with those relationships yet.

Q: Is there anything else ASC administrators should know about your company and what you're doing in the cardiovascular space?

TP: We would love to talk to any current sites that are interested in adding cardiovascular services. We don't provide just pure consulting — we do want to have that long-term relationship — but if someone's interested in the ASC space, we do have opportunities with CCOA.

If you'd like to participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Angie Stewart at astewart@beckershealthcare.com.

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