Is GI consolidation a necessity to thrive? 

Some gastroenterology leaders say consolidation is the only way for many practices to survive as operating costs soar and margins tighten.

U.S. Digestive Health CEO Jerry Tillinger joined Becker's to discuss the upsides to consolidation. 

Editor's note: This response was edited lightly for length and clarity.

Question: How is GI industry consolidation affecting the delivery of patient care?

Jerry Tillinger: As we come together as a large organization, we bring resources and capabilities to practices that didn't have them before. Our ability to expand endoscopy centers and more rapidly to meet the market is easier for us to do in a consolidated practice where we have a strong capital environment and we're not limited in such investments. We've got internal expertise in construction and planning that normally a private practice wouldn't have. So you've got more resources available to drive that trend. I think you're seeing better technology on operating efficiency — we're getting better and better and making sure that we use our endoscopy centers at closer to full capacity.

Traditionally, operating suites run at 80 to 85 percent of capacity — that's just between late cancellations and people who turn up and haven't prepped properly or they've got a medical problem that we didn't know about before and we have to cancel the case. We're getting better and better at keeping those rooms running at their real capacity. So I think you're seeing that improve the practice operation. 

Also, you're seeing better recruiting opportunities because as a larger practice you get people calling us now and from fellowships, we're not having to search them out the way we would have in a smaller practice. 

Also, you're seeing the technology pieces come more quickly to the market. So for example, we were one of the first practices to bring GI Genius out across the platform in a way that a small practice just wouldn't have been able to pull off. We were able to do it because we were representing 100-plus doctors in one conversation.

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