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Where Is the World of Ophthalmology Headed?

Private Equity (PE) Interest in Ophthalmic Practices is on the rise!

And this trend seems to be headed to record levels this year and 2019.   If you are unfamiliar with the acronym (PE), it is likely that you are practicing in a rural market, a second city market, or perhaps you have just begun your career in a private practice.  

The year 2017 produced as many practice purchase/sale transactions as could be identified in the prior five years in the ophthalmic space. Sources of capital include public and corporate pension funds, insurance companies, endowments, foundations and high net-worth individuals.

Industry commentators are saying that the rebirth of ophthalmic practice acquisitions is reminiscent of the late 1990s, but those more familiar with both periods believe that there are some very unique differences. One difference is that currently, PE firms are content with leaving talented managerial professionals in charge of consolidated practices; this was not the norm in the prior period of consolidation into physician practice management companies. 

One thing seems clear, approximately two dozen Private Equity firms are scrambling to identify successful ophthalmic practices and surgery centers for a number of reasons, including an aging population, the growth of insurance coverage for ophthalmology and vision care and an increasing degree of chronic diseases affecting over 35 million people in the United States. 

Numerous minimally invasive technologies in ophthalmology are also emerging, providing patients with safer alternatives and outstanding outcomes for conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, treatment of diabetic retinopathy, and refractive disorders. 

If your practice is connected to a surgery center, there is an added attraction for the buyers.  Assuming your practice is highly regarded, reasonably diverse, specialized and there is a somewhat significant number of patient encounters annually, you are likely to find that there are more than a few, interested suitors.  

Make no mistake about these transactions, these relationships are permanent and finding a good fit requires an experienced broker or investment banker to represent you to the interested parties. The key is having a representative who will work exclusively for the practice, and who agrees to maintain an independent relationship apart from the buyers.

If you are serious about exploring a sale of your practice, you should know that a good broker or investment banker will charge you a fee, but they will educate the buyers, and provide the all-inclusive communications with the buyer saving you from numerous repetitive, and time consuming meetings. 

Transactional experience and knowledgeable suitor intelligence from your representative is essential to a successful conclusion with a buyer. Those are the two characteristics recommended that you should be looking for from your financial representative. A better quality of life awaits those who act prudently.

Glenn A. deBrueys, CEO

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