Why Private Equity is Furious Over a Paper in a Dermatology Journal

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Dermatologists account for one percent of U.S. physicians, but 15 percent of recent private equity acquisitions of medical practices have involved dermatology practices. Other specialties that have attracted private equity investment include orthopedics, radiology, cardiology, urgent care, anesthesiology, and ophthalmology.

One of the paper’s five supplemental tables lists 32 dermatology practices in the U.S. that have been formed or acquired by private equity firms. Many are large practices with dozens of physicians.

Shortly after the article disappeared from the journal’s website, a copy was posted to a Facebook group composed of some 3,500 dermatologists. Several participants in the Facebook group praised the article for shining a light on the effects of private equity on their specialty, and were outraged that the article had been withdrawn.

“If this were an article on psoriasis no one would be questioning it, but this was going to ruffle some feathers,” said Dr. Curtis Asbury, a dermatologist in Selbyville, Md., and active participant in the Facebook group.

The lead author of the paper was Dr. Sailesh Konda, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. Dr. Konda, 34, said he first grew interested in the topic when several of his trainees went to work for private equity-backed practices and told him of clinical environments that emphasized profits at the expense of patient care. He said that over the past year he has given 16 talks around the country to medical residents and dermatology societies about private equity. Dr. Francis has joined him for some of the sessions.

Dr. Konda said he and his co-authors spent a year working on the paper. After the paper went out for review, he said, “we received constructive feedback.” Most of the comments, he said, were about maintaining a neutral tone.

“We strived to not use any polemic words, which could be interpreted as bias,” he said. “We decided to just deal with the facts, which would speak for themselves.”

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