The Commercial Appeal
February 23, 2012
Heart groups see 'seamless' merger
By Toby Sells
When Memphis Heart Clinic and Stern Cardiovascular Foundation complete their merger on March 1, all but one of the Heart Clinic's locations will remain and all of its employees will work for Stern, a company official said.
Memphis Heart Clinic's Brighton location will close and its patients seen at Stern's clinic in Munford, said Jim Boswell, Baptist Medical Group CEO.
All of the Heart Clinic's employees will go to Stern, he said, and all patient data from both clinics will be consolidated on one electronic medical record system.
The transition for patients will be "seamless" because Stern already accepts most major insurance brands.
Memphis Heart Clinic, Stern and Baptist have been working on the merger for about 90 days, Boswell said. Also, the Heart Clinic wasn't left behind from last year's merger between The West Clinic and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, as was stated in a Wednesday story in The Commercial Appeal, Boswell said.
"Memphis Heart Clinic doctors had a choice of who they wanted to align with," Boswell said. "They evaluated both (Baptist) and Methodist and decided to go with the clear leader in cardiovascular care in Memphis."
Stern is a direct affiliate of Baptist Medical Group, which is the unit of the Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. system focused on recruiting physicians and acquiring physician groups.
Dr. Joseph K. Samaha helped found the Memphis Heart Clinic in 1998 with Drs. William Flanagan, David Kraus and Setvan Himmelstein. He said the clinic is "sad to depart our colleagues at The West Clinic" and that theirs was a "great relationship," but is looking forward to a relationship with Stern and Baptist.
"Baptist offered us an opportunity to join with another strong clinic and to have a premier regional presence in cardiology with a very strong hospital system that has state-of-the-art equipment that we need to serve our patients," Samaha said.
Stern will have 35 cardiologists once the merger is settled. Sutherland Cardiology Clinic, which affiliated with Methodist in 2010, is the next largest cardiology clinic with 20 physicians.
The Stern merger is the most recent example of a consolidation trend that has dominated Memphis health care for nearly two years.
The three major hospital systems in Memphis more than tripled the number of doctors they employed in 2011, according to a study by market watcher HealthLeaders-InterStudy. The systems employed 84 physicians at the end of 2010, but employed more than 400 by late November 2011, according to the study.
"Health systems and hospitals throughout the country are busy acquiring physician groups, but perhaps nowhere is this trend more evident than in Memphis," said April Wortham, an analyst with HealthLeaders-InterStudy. "Hospital leaders there have clearly bought in to the idea that health care providers at all levels will need to be much more tightly integrated to survive going forward."
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