Private equity's new target could be good news for ASCs

After years of courting ASCs, gastroenterology groups and ophthalmology groups, private equity has set its sights on cardiology, a high-acuity growth opportunity for ASCs. 

Florida-based private equity firm Viper Partners is opening a mergers and acquisitions department focused on deals in the cardiology space. Viper has completed more than $4 billion in deals outside of the cardiology space and now has several surgical cardiology and subspecialty groups under contract. 

Cardiology groups are the latest focus of healthcare investors, Gary Herschman, of the law firm Epstein Beckers Green, wrote in a Nov. 9 blog post. Currently, there are six active private equity cardiology platforms, according to Mr. Herschman, adding that the number is expected to double in the next 12 to 18 months. 

Cardiology is a growing platform for a variety of reasons — Viper said it plans to enter the industry due to a low concentration of private equity in cardiology, the aging population and changes to Medicare and Medicaid rules.

This could be good news for ASCs, who have been eyeing cardiology as more procedures move to the outpatient setting. 

Cardiology procedures received the highest estimated Medicare payment increases in 2021, making it the fastest growing ASC specialty, according to Avanza's "2022 Key ASC Benchmarks and Industry Figures" report. A 2020 Bain & Co. report projected that by the mid-2020s, 33 percent of cardiology procedures will be performed in ASCs, a 23 percent increase from 2018. 

"In the near future we will see more orthopedic, spine and cardiac procedures in the ASC setting," Cherise Brown, administrator of Andover (Kan.) Surgery Center, told Becker's in September. "CMS recently added several cardiac procedures to the ASC covered procedure list, including diagnostic and interventional coronary procedures, peripheral vascular interventions, and placement of pacemakers and defibrillators."

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