Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates and private equity group Frazier Healthcare Partners closed a deal Dec. 17, marking the third ever major private equity investment in the gastroenterology space.
Similar to Southlake-based Texas Digestive Disease Consultants' November 2018 deal with Waud Capital Partners, AGA and Frazier formed a gastroenterology-focused practice management company, United Digestive.
United Digestive CEO Mark Gilreath spoke to Becker's ASC Review about the partnership and how the resulting practice management group will impact the current market.
Note: This piece has been lightly edited for style.
Question: Why did Frazier seek out AGA for an initial investment?
Mark Gilreath: Frazier Healthcare Partners is unique among leading private equity firms due to its heritage of partners with exceptional talent and experience in the [gastroenterology] community. With unique insights into the GI space, the Frazier team met with many GI groups around the U.S. AGA really stood out due to their 40-year history of providing high-quality digestive healthcare services, as well as their established business infrastructure, breadth of ancillary services and award-winning clinical team. It's clear that Steven Morris, MD, has been a visionary leader, and most groups simply haven’t had 40 years to develop such a robust platform for sustainable growth.
Q: How will United Digestive impact the GI space in Atlanta?
MG: Over the years, AGA expanded steadily throughout the state of Georgia, yet many small groups still remain in this fragmented market. With the increasing demands of our dynamic healthcare system, it has become more difficult for small groups to maintain their independence. United Digestive offers an opportunity for clinicians to benefit from our operational infrastructure and stability, while still allowing them to retain their independence and continued emphasis on high-quality patient care. And, beyond the state of Georgia, we have been actively discussing opportunities with other GI groups across the U.S.
Q: As CEO, what's your ultimate vision for the company?
MG: The U.S. healthcare industry is seeing tremendous consolidation with increasing demands for management and technology to meet the daily complex needs of a quality practice. The challenges are tremendous, and the GI community is in the early stages of a significant transformation. We can make a significant difference in the GI community by partnering with like-minded practices and physicians who share our commitment to high-quality care, with a sustainable economic model. United Digestive is the engaged advocate for the independent GI physician.
Q: How will United Digestive compete against other GI management companies and existing ASC management companies in the space?
MG: The GI community across the U.S. is very large and fragmented, with more than 2,000 GI groups. Many of these groups are struggling with overwhelming administrative burdens and physician recruiting challenges. For GI groups with a collaborative spirit and an unequivocal focus on quality patient care, we believe that United Digestive will be the clear partner of choice.