Tenet CEO: Why USPI is its 'gem for the future'

Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare's United Surgical Partners International is the company's "gem for the future," CEO Saum Sutaria, MD, said during the JPMorgan Health Conference Jan. 11.

By the end of 2021, USPI had grown to encompass 438 centers, placing it well ahead of such competitors as Amsurg and Surgical Care Affiliates, which have about 250 surgery center locations apiece.

This substantial growth in ASCs was driven in part by Tenet's $1.1 billion deal to acquire SurgCenter Development's ownership interests in 86 ambulatory surgery centers and related services. Under the deal, finalized in December 2021, USPI and SurgCenter also entered into an agreement that gives USPI the option to partner with SurgCenter to develop at least 50 centers over five years.

"While USPI was a part of Tenet back in 2017, the commitment we drove as part of the transformation was to scale it … into the undisputed leader in ambulatory surgery," Dr. Sutaria said. "This has been the centerpiece of our new strategy."

By 2025, Tenet said it expects USPI to encompass 575 to 600 surgical centers through acquisitions and new development. In 2022 alone, Tenet said it would invest at least $200 million in surgery center acquisitions.

"We have a thoughtful strategy that balances acquisitions and de novo developments, and we have proven this works," Dr. Sutaria said.

In addition to providing an update on USPI, Dr. Sutaria touched on the company's growth in its Conifer revenue cycle management segment.

Throughout the last few years, Tenet has worked to modernize Conifer with new technology, an offshoring strategy and a focus on hiring high-performing sales talent, Dr. Sutaria said.

"The results so far is 1,000-basis point margin expansion, proving that Conifer is a truly a productive asset of the company and far from the asset that some assumed should be divested in a fire sale in 2017," Dr. Sutaria said. 

Tenet said these changes have resulted in new revenue cycle management clients, including Renton, Wash.-based Providence for midcycle services and Dallas-based Steward Health Care for end-to-end services. 

At the end of the third quarter of 2021, Conifer had about 3,000 employees offshore, an increase from about 1,000 workers in 2017, according to the presentation. 

For more information, listen to the presentation here.  

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