COVID concerns, private equities, and virtual realities


I am hopeful that we are beginning to see a sustained decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Although, total COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise (more than 460,000 deaths in the United States), vaccinations and treatment options have reduced the prevalence of severe disease, hospitalizations, and mortality rates. Worries about variants continue, but we now will enter a prolonged phase before we finally subdue COVID-19 and fully open our economies.

Dr. John I. Allen

Health systems and practices are looking ahead and beginning to focus on how practice will look after COVID-19. From a business standpoint, we are seeing an accelerating consolidation of community practices. We anticipate the first resale of a private equity (PE)–acquired GI practice: Gastro Health was the first practice to join with a PE firm in 2016. Published rumors suggest a sale of the (now larger, multistate) practice at 15-times-plus EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) could begin as early as this quarter. It would not be a surprise to see 40% of independent gastroenterologists employed in a PE-backed model within a few years. Health systems and payers (especially United Health Group) continue to scoop up practices as well.

Clinical care has been changed forever. I expect fully 30% of visits will remain virtual, and innovative health systems will capitalize on that fact to right-size their brick-and-mortar facilities. Start-up companies will virtualize care and develop new models that allow board-certified gastroenterologist to focus on care they only can provide, resulting in substantial cost savings and (hopefully) similar or better outcomes. Remote patient monitoring (both reactive and predictive) is now firmly entrenched in our care armamentarium.

As you will see in this issue, we must create more effective interventions for NAFLD. Obesity will play an increasingly important role in the development of digestive and liver disease, so gastroenterologists must develop better tools and processes to combat root causes.

Begin thinking about DDW. While it again will be a virtual meeting, the content will be rich. Virtual meetings open up additional possibilities to gain new knowledge, although those personal connections over cocktails will be sorely missed.

John I. Allen, MD, MBA, AGAF
Editor in Chief

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