ROI-NJ Exclusive: LeBenger details national expansion plans for Summit

Dr. Jeffrey LeBenger, CEO of both Summit Health Management and Summit Medical Group, is taking his brands national.

LeBenger announced expansion into Oregon and Arizona on Thursday.

And that’s just the first step.

LeBenger, in an exclusive interview earlier this week, told ROI-NJ he already is looking at more expansion to additional areas.

“We have ample capital to do this in our own organization,” he said. “We do not need private equity at this time.

“We have 800 providers at Summit. The doctors ponied up capital to be able to successful in moving this model. We are looking for similar-minded groups who want to come together in a physician-owned, physician-run, professionally managed way.”

Summit Health Management provides administrative, clinical and financial services. It operates as an independent arm of Summit Medical Group, the biggest physician group in New Jersey.

In Central Oregon, SHM has signed a letter of intent with Bend Memorial Clinic.

BMC is the largest multispecialty physician group in its region, with 120 providers in 30 specialties.

“This is an important milestone in the long and distinguished history of BMC that will ensure the strength and vitality of our physician-owned and -governed medical group,” said Dr. David Holloway, CEO of BMC.

Russell Massine, chief governance officer of BMC, added, “Summit Health Management and BMC are cut from the same cloth with shared values.”

In Arizona, Summit Medical Group will put its name on a new organization — Summit Medical Group Arizona — beginning Jan. 1.

The group will begin with 51 providers from the greater Phoenix area’s Arizona Primary Care Physicians, and LeBenger said there are plans to grow rapidly.

APC is currently comprised of affiliates Thunderbird Internal Medicine (Glendale/Phoenix/Sun City), Paseo Primary Care Physicians (Glendale), Daniel L. Kessler MD (Sun City West/Surprise), Fountains Family Care (Chandler), Family First Physicians (Mesa), Estrella Internal Medicine and Pediatrics (Goodyear/Litchfield Park), and Holland Center for Family Health (Glendale/Sun City).

“This partnership with Summit Health Management will provide us with the essential tools, capabilities and resources to navigate the challenging health care environment and successfully grow a physician-led and -governed group, broadening our ancillary and specialist capability offerings to the benefit of the residents of the Valley,” said Dr. Brian Riveland, CEO of Thunderbird Internal Medicine and the chief physician executive of Summit Medical Group Arizona. “As Summit Medical Group Arizona, we will remain committed to a ‘patient first’ philosophy with a focus on providing convenient local access to high quality care.”

LeBenger said that, after four years of reducing costs for Summit Medical Group, Summit Health Management was ready to go to market.

“We kind of stayed in the background in New Jersey,” he said. “We created a management company four-and-a-half years ago. We did use Summit Medical Group, and I don’t mean to say it this way, but, as our beta, to look at how we handle risk.”

A recent Bloomberg BNA article highlighted SMG as an example of how to do physician group consolidation right.

That, LeBenger said, is further proof his management concept is ready for market.

He knows many groups look at private equity, and cede control to the firms only interested in return on investment, or go to a hospital group that places them lower on the priority list.

“Many of these organizations want to maintain some autonomy, and be physician-owned and physician-run, but there are such stresses on these organizations with costs,” LeBenger said. “The infrastructure is capital-intensive, and growth is capital-intensive.”

In the statement Wednesday, LeBenger said: “These newly formed relationships affirm that the distinctive patient care and practice management model which fostered the unprecedented growth and success of Summit Medical Group in New Jersey is scalable, customizable and nationally relevant. Across the country, physician groups are contemplating whether they continue independently or partner with large hospital systems or corporate entities. Our goal is to provide colleagues with all of the resources needed to sustain thriving independent physician groups.”