HOW TODAY’S M&As ARE PREPARING HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATIONS FOR A NEW FUTURE

HOW TODAY’S M&As ARE PREPARING HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATIONS FOR A NEW FUTURE

HOW TODAY’S M&As ARE PREPARING HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATIONS
FOR A NEW FUTURE

Brent McDonald
Head of Healthcare Strategic Advisory,
Managing Director
Bank of America

In the face of seismic industry shifts, challenging
regulations, and constant uncertainty in Washington,
providers are reshaping the healthcare
landscape themselves by entering into strategic
mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships. Today’s
deals are reflective of the times, says Brent
McDonald, head of healthcare strategic advisory
and managing director at Bank of America Merrill
Lynch. “Most providers who are looking to merge
are focused on achieving powerful and costly
objectives such as transitioning to a value-based
payment model, growing a population health initiative,
and improving clinical integration,” notes
McDonald. “They are seeking partners with the
right combination of capital, infrastructure, intellectual
property, and technology.” McDonald discusses
the benefits of integration and how providers are
structuring today’s complex M&As.
What types of strategic partnerships
are common in the current
healthcare climate?
Brent McDonald: We are seeing mergers that
have clear built-in synergies. Oftentimes, the two
organizations don’t just mirror, but rather they
complement each other in strategic ways. When
they merge, it becomes one plus one equals three,
allowing them to more effectively meet the Triple
Aim. For example, one hospital may have spent
more time developing an urgent care network, a
freestanding emergency room, or a micro-hospital
network, while the other recruited and invested in
developing a network of high-acuity specialists.
It’s common to see an urban or academic medical
center that has invested in tertiary subspecialists
integrate with a successful community hospital that
is associated with more primary care physicians.
And it isn’t necessarily that they have economies
of scale available, but they are a very complementary
clinical fit. Partnering with an organization that
has built scalable competencies makes it easier
to justify the execution risk of integrating. If you
merge with a hospital that has spent the time and
resources on a clinical integration network that is
already functioning with the governance, accountability
measures, and physicians in place, then you
don’t have to take on that risk in building your own
network, which could fail.
What are the primary financial benefits
in a merger or acquisition?
McDonald: Overhead is still the most straightforward
and nonclinical financial economy of scale.
Organizations formed through a merger or acquisition
can expect to gain efficiencies in accounting,
human resources, revenue cycle, supply chain, and
other back-office services. These deals also allow
you to spread the cost of investment in health
information technology and population health over
a broader set of hospitals and a larger net revenue
base. Moreover, there may be clinical core competencies
that benefit the two parties post-merger,
including complementary service lines and geographic
ambulatory access points.
What do leaders hope to gain clinically
when entering into a new partnership?
McDonald: Quality is always top of mind. Without
quality and a reputation of quality, your earnings
and growth will suffer, as well as your ability to
reinvest and continue to be a high performing
organization. That being said, when considering a
partnership today, providers are often looking for
specific clinical competencies. For example, having
expertise in case management and physician
integration, as well as having advanced technology
is desirable. Simply having an electronic medical
record (EMR) isn’t enough anymore. How you use
the EMR to make a difference in providing care
is important to a potential partner. An organization
that has mature physician integration and is
advanced in how it uses its EMR system to impact
care likely has physician leaders who have worked
through the data sets to create best practices,
and has clinical care decision matrices embedded
in the medical record, which enables greater standardized
care.
“Without quality and a
reputation of quality, your
earnings and growth will
suffer, as well as your ability to
reinvest and continue to be a
high performing organization.”
How are mergers and acquisitions
helping organizations meet advanced
population health goals?
McDonald: Achieving population health requires
an investment, and if you are precarious from a
balance sheet or a profit-loss perspective, meaning
you don’t have enough margin to reinvest in the
hospital, then you won’t be able to execute on key
initiatives. Infrastructure and technology are the
two critical components that make up the backbone
of population health. They allow a hospital to
measure clinical information and present cohesive
and timely information back to its clinicians. Both
of these competencies require heavy capital investment
and know-how. Having a strong internal
framework and state-of-the-art IT are not something
that smaller, community hospitals can generally do
alone—typically, because they don’t have sufficient
margin to invest in such initiatives across their
subscale network. For example, if a community
hospital is trying to create a center of excellence
in a clinical service line, they may have trouble in
areas such as recruiting the key specialists and
subspecialists. A larger partner will typically have
the technology, case management, and a better
4 Bank of America Merrill Lynch I Sponsored Material
pipeline of doctors. Our Bank of America Merrill
Lynch analysis reflects that there is a correlation
between scale (or size) of an organization and higher
investment-grade credit ratings.
The goals of MACRA include radically
shifting payment models from fee-forservice
to value-based payment. How
does a merger or acquisition support
and accelerate this shift, as well as
help an organization bear
downside risk?
McDonald: MACRA adds more complexity, which
will probably cause more physicians to organize into
larger groups. Clearly, being able to handle value-based
payment is a different way of practicing.
It requires different skill sets. But, the model is still
being shaken out. Will it be hospitals, physician-organized
super groups, or a hybrid of the two that
will be best positioned to transition physicians to
value-based care? We still don’t know.
In the meantime, a traditional independent physician
practice that has to rely on a high volume of
patients just to keep their office open does not
have a lot of excess capacity in their day to deal
with changing payment and care models. It is an
almost impossible task for independent physicians
to influence the health of their patients when they
leave their office and go to the hospital or to an
urgent care center. It requires competencies they
don’t have to compete in this advanced care and
payment system, including an optimized EMR and
the ability to undergo a care redesign. Therefore,
it is difficult to manage downside risk. You will be
more successful having scale and leverage for
these considerations and, also, for weathering the
unexpected revenue ebbs and flows of value-based
care. In a merger or alignment with a larger, capable
organization, physicians become part of a
larger entity that has a sophisticated EMR and
other advantages. These advantages include case
managers and other staff who are available specifically
to follow and enhance that patient’s journey
across different care environments. A larger system
can track someone who visits the ER, making sure
they receive the right follow-up care, do not have
an unnecessary hospital readmission, and have
a positive experience with their provider and the
healthcare system.
Improving the patient experience is
important in a merger or acquisition.
As organizations come together, how
can they address common challenges?
McDonald: There are betterment and integration
hurdles in this area. Most hospital systems are
constantly working toward a better position when
it comes to improving the patient experience. To
get there requires having the right skills to invest in
all of the resources you need. On the other hand,
mergers are disruptive and patient satisfaction
can be damaged as you integrate to a new culture
or platform. It’s important to have a plan for key
patient perception areas such as scheduling, registration,
and medical records. You need a unified
approach when integrating the patient experience.
For example, patients will be frustrated if the process
is disorganized and they have to register three
times in a visit to the hospital. It requires vigilant
attention to get this right.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch

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