AMA to probe how venture capitalists, PE firms are affecting physicians

The American Medical Association passed a resolution during its 2018 Annual Meeting, which took place June 9-13 in Chicago, to commission a study examining how venture capitalists' and private equity firms' investment in physician practices affects the healthcare industry.

The study, which will be presented at the organization's 2019 Annual Meeting, will examine a number of issues, including the degree of venture capital and PE investment in the healthcare marketplace, the effect of such investment on physician practice and independence and the effects of ownership turnovers and bankruptcies on patients and physician practices, among other trends.

Medical practices have become an increasingly attractive target for private equity and venture capital firms in recent years. For example, around the time the AMA's House of Delegates passed the resolution to commission the study, New York City-based private equity firm KKR & Co. entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Nashville, Tenn.-based physician services provider Envision Healthcare for $9.9 billion.

However, physicians most affected by the trend fear the shift may have significant consequences, since investors are typically most concerned with increasing profit, which may come at the expense of patient care, MarketWatch reports.

"Profit is important, but we want to make sure what's done in the patient's best interest is decided by a physician and not others who don't understand other nuances [of patient care]," Sherif Zaafran, MD, president of the Texas Medical Board and an alternate AMA delegate who voted in favor of the resolution, told MarketWatch. "As this is becoming much more prevalent, what are safeguards we can put in place to make sure physician autonomy and clinical decision-making processes with regard to their patients are safeguarded?"

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