At a time when Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. has unraveled most physician ownership ties to its hospitals, a hospital company launched with funding from one of Columbia's board members is embracing the concept of physician ownership.
Based in Nashville, the private company is called Iasis Healthcare. It was incorporated in February 1998 and received an undisclosed amount of seed capital in August 1998 from a venture capital fund jointly managed by Columbia board member R. Clayton McWhorter and his son Stuart McWhorter. While total capitalization figures were unavailable, sources said the company has letters of commitment for debt financing of hospital transactions of up to $200 million.
Since its birth, the company has kept a low profile. Wayne Gower, 51, the company's president and chief executive officer and a former Columbia division president, did not respond to requests for an interview.
R. Clayton McWhorter, 65, who also declined an interview, is a current Columbia board member and former chairman and CEO of Healthtrust-The Hospital Co.
Iasis has yet to buy a hospital, but is pursuing a strategic model of acquiring hospitals in competitive markets where there are at least two hospitals, said Kenneth Perry, Iasis' chief financial officer. The company hopes to involve physician ownership in its deals, Perry confirmed.
Perry's background includes time in various financial management capacities at Columbia, Healthtrust and Hospital Corporation of America.
Perry declined to elaborate on Iasis' goals or strategy, but the company's management hopes to align the interests of physician groups in target markets with hospitals and other healthcare providers, according to an internal profile of Iasis that was provided to MODERN HEALTHCARE.
A recent advisory bulletin on gain-sharing released by HHS' inspector general's office raises questions about hospital-physician relationships (July 12, p. 12).
It is not clear how Iasis' model of a physician-inclusive healthcare company differs from Columbia's model under the leadership of former Columbia Chairman and CEO Richard Scott. Through that model the company sold to physicians financial interests in a corporate organization that owned one or more hospitals.
Physician interests in hospitals were one of the first Columbia practices Thomas Frist Jr., M.D., set out to undo when he took the reins of the company in summer 1997, following Scott's resignation and the launching of a federal investigation into the company's business practices.
"Dr. Frist just didn't believe in (physician ownership deals)," Jeff Prescott, a Columbia spokesman, said. "He never did and still doesn't. He doesn't think it is the right way to go about relationships with physicians."