SCL Health acquires orthopedic practice

Brian Davidson

Dr. Brian Davidson

Ben Koger

Ben Koger

Mark Luker

Dr. Mark Luker

Dr. Brian Davidson constantly looks for ways to improve health care and patient satisfaction while also lowering costs.

The president of St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction believes he’s found one way in the acquisition of the largest orthopedic practice in Western Colorado. “It was a natural move on both our parts,” he said.

SCL Health Medical Group, a network of providers and clinics that’s part of the faith-based organization that operates St. Mary’s,
has acquired Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates.

Ben Koger, executive director of SCL Health Medical Group, described the arrangement as an acquisition in terms of business, but a partnership in terms of serving patients. “These docs know how to provide top-notch orthopedic care.”

The nine physicians, nine advanced practice professionals and 86 employees of Rocky Mountain Orthopedic Associates became employees of SCL Health Medical Group.

RMOA retains its name and continues to operate its facility at 627 25 1/2 Road in Grand Junction, providing a range of services in diagnosing, treating and rehabilitating injuries and diseases of the bones, joints, and muscles. Dr. Mark Luker, executive president of RMOA, will continue to serve in a physician leadership role.

“As RMOA joins SCL Health Medical Group, we will continue to work together to advance what we call the triple aim goal of health care — improving quality, cost and patient satisfaction,” Luker said. “As a single organization, we are confident that we will be able to advance this work more quickly to benefit our patients and communities.”

While some aspects of billing and electronic record keeping will change, Davidson said patients won’t notice any differences. “Clinically, not much is going to be different.”

St. Mary’s will benefit from the acquisition, Davidson said, by adding the services of the orthopedic practice and such specialties as foot and ankle surgery, joint replacements and pediatric care.

RMOA will benefit from the stability and resources of a large, integrated health care system, he said. That includes expensive equipment and information technology. Moreover, the arrangement will allow RMOA providers to concentrate on caring for patients.

Kroger agreed. “It just makes sense to more tightly align.”

Davidson said the arrangement also could offer opportunities to align incentives in ways that lower costs for patients.

RMOA wasn’t in financial trouble, Davidson said. “There’s nothing to fix here.”

Rather, the acquisition is part of Davidson said is a trend in which a growing proportion of doctors and other health care providers who in the past operated private practices join in employment arrangements or go to work for hospitals or to take advantage of the shared technology and support services as well as the economies of scale.

Given the high cost of medical school combined with the prospect of taking on additional debt in joining in a private practice, most new doctors choose employment over practicing independently, he said.

St. Mary’s isn’t actively seeking to acquire additional practices or hire more providers, but would consider those arrangements under the right circumstances, Davidson said. “If they’re interested, we’re interested.”

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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