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February 28, 2020

Hip to Be Asset-Lite

As regular readers know, sometimes the blog post functions a bit like a therapy session, a time for me to sit back and process all that has been happening of late.  I appreciate you, like a good counselor, listening and nodding in that gentle, affirming manner as I prattle on.  Fortunately, this takes you only two minutes, not 55.

It has been a whirlwind of late, with seemingly random and disconnected conversations all over the place – late dinners with practice executives; conferences where the healthcare money people gather; coffees to network (translation: I just got laid off, you have a blog so I guess that means you can introduce me to people); strategy sessions with clients making some big decisions; a dip into the dreamy world of healthcare start-ups who all believe they are sitting on the next big, big thing.

It is one of the best aspects of my job.  You rightfully gather that asking me to do that same thing two days in a row would make my he…hey, squirrel!  Easily distracted is an accurate label; able to see weird connections is another.

So, you ask, ‘What is the big take away from all of this?’  That is the kind of thing the therapist asks.

Well, I have good news, good for you, my physician practice friends.

You did not even know it, but you are ‘asset-lite’ and that is a good thing.  It is making you the belle of the ball.

Asset-lite is the new way of saying you don’t have burdensome fixed overhead and operating costs.  And that just means you are not a hospital or health system.  And that is increasingly a good thing.

You may be primary care oriented, and I mean that in the broadest possible terms, and pursuing risk in value-based care contracts. Here, an asset-lite delivery network comprised of physician practices, urgent care centers, retail locations and post-acute providers like home care and PT is attractive because it can better act to really manage care and costs, not just fill beds.

Conversely, you may be procedurally oriented and working to move care to the most cost-effective settings.  Here, asset-lite means surgeries and procedures are moved from hospitals and HOPDs (hospital outpatient departments) to ASCs and the office setting.  This is just simple math – over here that cost $1, over there it cost $2.  OK, let’s do it here instead of there.

Successful physician practices are increasingly following one of these two fundamental strategies and all the people with money – the government, payers, employers, investors, bankers – are taking notice in a good way.  In either case, if you can do it well and do it at scale, being asset-lite is a good thing.

Embrace your ‘asset-liteness.’  It is now hip.

Tim Coan
Tim Coan

CEO and founder

Tim Coan, ALN’s CEO, writes an insightful and witty blog weekly about a variety of topics relevant to independent physician practices.