Dr. Samuel Gun on private equity investment in gastroenterology

Samuel H. Gun, DO, is a physician at Tri-County Gastroenterology in Clinton Township, Mich., an assistant clinical professor in gastroenterology for the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and a fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Internists. Here, he shares his thoughts on the future of the specialty and the headwinds he expects to face this year.

Question: What do you see as the major growth areas in GI this year?

Dr. Samuel Gun: There is significant change happening in the healthcare space: Value-based care models continue to rise, the consumerization of healthcare is becoming more prominent and — thanks to wearable technology and digital therapeutics — patients are taking much more responsibility for their own care across the board. The central theme here is the focus on the patient with the help of technology, which I anticipate will continue to grow for gastroenterology this year. It’s also all about improving the patient experience and customer service at all touchpoints.

Keeping this in mind, it’s important for gastroenterologists to have access to technology that is both intuitive and trustworthy for running the clinical, financial and operational aspects of their practice. My practice, Tri-County Gastroenterology, recognizes this prominent shift, and we continue to implement measures and technology that will help us keep our patients healthy and agile enough for our practice to adapt to general healthcare trends.

We believe that quality care includes having a solid tech foundation which includes electronic medical record and endoscopy report-writing software. This technology should be intuitive and allow nurses and physicians to focus on patients, rather than reporting or repetitive data entry. Our current EHR technology, the gGastro EMR system from Modernizing Medicine Gastroenterology, serves as a welcomed helping hand to our physicians.

Using the same vendor for our endoscopy report writer has allowed for seamless integration and increased efficiency. In addition, our team spends less time documenting and more time focusing on patients. I can now document a procedure note in three minutes or less. I’m done with the report as a patient is leaving the room.

The technology also helps eliminate delays in communication, and our patients have shared that they appreciate the rapid results. This has been particularly helpful when it comes to reporting back to each patient’s primary care physician, which is critical under value-based care initiatives. Part of a primary care physician's role in many value-based care initiatives is guiding patients through their care journey, and receiving real-time documentation from us on the outcome of a gastroenterology visit is a critical component that helps the patient and their primary care physician determine any necessary next steps.

When preparing notes for referring physicians, our endoscopy report-writing software provides prompts that help guide our physicians through the process. Take colonoscopy documentation, for example — if a gastroenterologist found three polyps during an exam, they can simply click the type of polyp and set an automatic recall prompt for three years. With just a few additional clicks, a note for the referring physician is created.

It’s also important we understand the patient experience. We hand out monthly patient satisfaction surveys while patients are being discharged and typically receive a 70 percent response rate. This helps us keep a pulse on the patient experience so we can make improvements where needed and take that feedback into consideration.

Q: Do you see private equity or consolidation having an effect on the specialty in your area?

SG: There certainly has been a rise in private equity firms backing private, specialty practices in recent years, and it’s based mostly on economics. As the boomer population continues to age and the number of patients with chronic conditions rises, demand for gastro practices will undoubtedly continue to increase. The lack of dependence on larger medical organizations can lead to lower costs, and ancillary centers like ASCs are often seen as additional revenue streams.

Q: What goals or business strategies are you focusing on for your practice this year?

SG: Improving patient care and the patient experience continues to be our main focus moving into the new year. In addition to ensuring we continue to build strong relationships with our patients during office visits, we’re also focused on strengthening patient engagement and communication outside of our office walls. Technology helps make this possible for our providers.

Since our gGastro EHR system has mobile functionality and is cloud-based, our specialists are able to address pertinent or urgent patient needs as they arise from virtually anywhere. This also helps them keep tabs on things while they’re out of the office and clear out tasks to reduce paperwork when they return.

Our patient portal is also a vital component for improving care, as patients can view their healthcare records and/or the status of test results so they’re always up-to-date on the state of their health. Overall, when patients feel invested in their own care, it results in better health outcomes -- which is what really matters most.

More articles on gastroenterology:
White Plains Hospital to expand endoscopy services at $272M outpatient center
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Salix Pharmaceuticals launches scholarship program

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