A Better Prescription: Prioritizing Patients Over Profits in Emergency Care

I am intrigued by this week’s news of a Senate investigation led by Senator Gary Peters into the impact of private equity firms on hospital emergency departments. This inquiry aims to understand private equity’s ownership and its effects on patient care and costs. It highlights concerns over profit-driven practices that may compromise healthcare quality by putting profits over patients.

Imamu Tomlinson, MD, MBA, CEO of Vituity and President of the Vituity Cares Foundation

Imamu Tomlinson , MD, MBA

CEO of Vituity and President of the Vituity Cares Foundation

Published April 17, 2024

As the CEO of Vituity, a 100% physician-owned and -led partnership, our model has enabled us to avoid the need for private equity investment. Every business model has pros and cons, but private equity adds an additional layer of complexity to care delivery. The Senate inquiry into private equity’s role in hospital emergency departments underscores a crucial concern: the possible alteration of patient care due to the private equity financial construct. I believe this type of investigation was inevitable because of the potential financial pressures that may be transferred to the bedside.

For patients and providers, healthcare is a long-term game, and it is difficult to play if the priority is short-term. Often, that short-term focus results in cost-cutting measures that can potentially affect patient care quality. Staffing reductions, increased patient wait times, and a focus on the efficiency of financial return over patient outcomes are just some potential consequences.

To avoid the potential challenges of the private equity model, I propose a multi-faceted approach:

  1. Transparency and Regulation: Implement regulations that require full transparency of ownership structures, financial transactions, and their impact on patient care outcomes.
  2. Investment in Quality Care: Encourage the adoption of physician-led models like Vituity’s, which take a long-view approach to quality care delivery rather than short-term financial gains.
  3. Community Engagement: Strengthen the role of community oversight in healthcare organizations, ensuring that decisions are made in the best interests of patients, providers, and local populations.
  4. Education and Advocacy: Educate stakeholders, including patients, healthcare providers, and policymakers, about the implications of healthcare’s financial models. Advocate for policies that promote sustainable and long-term patient-centered models of care.
  5. Alignment with Core Values: Stay true to healthcare’s mission—providing compassionate, top-tier care to every patient and improving lives unequivocally. By embracing this shared vision of prioritizing patient welfare, the collective impact would transform the healthcare landscape, ensuring that the primary focus remains on enhancing life quality for all.

Healthcare is definitely complex, and there are all kinds of business models. At Vituity, we believe it’s difficult to care for patients if you are encumbered with services debt or burdened with the expectation of a financial return. This deep probe into private equity’s influence in healthcare is likely the first of many. As healthcare leaders, we must advocate for and implement sustainable care delivery financial models that prioritize the well-being of patients, providers, and communities for years to come.

Learn more about Vituity and our 100% physician-owned democratic partnership.

This article was previously published on Linkedin on April 5, 2024.

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