Rural Healthcare Group buys four HCA Healthcare-owned clinics – The Business Journals

November 18, 2022
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Benson Sloan wants to take care of the people who take care of people.
That’s the inspiration behind Nashville-based Rural Healthcare Group, which purchased four Middle Tennessee primary care physician practices this month from HCA Healthcare Inc.
Terms of the deal, which brings the total number of practices owned by RHG to eight, were not disclosed. However, Sloan said RHG can pay as much as seven figures per clinic.
Launched in May, RHG purchases primary care providers — often from the doctors themselves — in rural areas and invests to improve their technology, workflows and administrative functions, while adding clinical staff, said Sloan, the company’s founder and CEO. 
RHG is backed by New York City-based private equity firm Kinderhook Industries, which Sloan said has committed $50 million to start and scale the company. 
Sloan is a former executive at Nashville-based NaviHealth — which was purchased by health insurance giant Optum in 2020 for more than $2 billion — but said he founded RHG because he believes the “future of health care is with the provider.” Clinicians are able to engage and manage their patients in the care they receive, he said, which is why RHG is making the rural health care provider the center of its business.
“The odds are stacked against [rural] providers in so many ways,” Sloan said. “We want to level the odds by investing in their practice and taking out all that administrative burden. … Because they are so dedicated to their communities, they spend all their time in the clinic trying to keep it afloat.”
There is a shortage of physicians in rural America, forcing many patients to drive hours for care. There are more than 7,200 federally designated health professional shortage areas in the U.S., according to an Association of American Colleges report, and three out of five are in rural areas. Twenty percent of Americans live in a rural region, while 11% of physicians practice in those areas.
Worse, many of those physicians are nearing retirement age, which could result in nearly a quarter fewer rural physicians by 2030, according to the report.
That’s why Sloan said RHG offers physicians a retirement transition plan, which allows their clinic to stay open and keep the same name.
“None of these doctors thought there was a way to transition to retirement without closing their clinic, which they don’t want to do,” Sloan said. “They are central to their communities.”
Sloan said he expects RHG to scale to 100 clinics over the next three years — 20 by the end of next year — mainly in Tennessee, with some in southern Kentucky and North Carolina. Most will be acquisitions but Sloan said the company will build a few de novo clinics next year. The company currently has five corporate Nashville employees, which will grow to 20 in the coming years, he said. 
As RHG grows, Sloan said it will be positioned to partner with insurance companies on value-based care programs, of which he said primary care is a critical piece — just as it is to the health of rural America.
“We are a provider-based medical group and we understand the hardships and the burdens that they have every day in practicing medicine — from trying to deliver care, to doing the paperwork, to running [human resources], to doing the finances, to recruiting. … They’re committed to their community and they deeply believe that their community deserves better, so they do everything they can to stay in business, despite making it really hard for themselves and their families,” Sloan said. “We believe that if we put the provider first they will have a better experience and they will show up everyday in a better way for their patients, which will ultimately improve patient health outcomes.”
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