Researchers from several universities have found a sharp increase in private equity-backed acquisitions of ophthalmology and optometry practices in the United States since 2012, according to their cross-sectional study of acquisition and investment data from January 2012 to October 2019.

Between 2017 and 2019, 186 practices in the United States were acquired. By comparison, only 42 were acquired between 2012 and 2016. For the most part, these companies were acquired by private equity–backed platform companies. The researchers found 228 practices (with 1,466 clinical locations) were acquired by 29 private equity–backed firms. Of those acquired, 127 were comprehensive/multispecialty, 92 were optometry practices and nine were retina clinics.

The companies acquiring these eye care facilities have developed both regionally focused and multi-state models of acquisitions, the investigators explained. Acquisitions were made across 40 states, but mostly in New York, which saw 22, and California, with 19. The investigators arrived at their findings after compiling acquisition and financial investment data from six financial databases, four industry news outlets and publicly available press releases from private equity firms or platform companies.

The study also looked into subsequent sales, median holding period, geographic footprint and financing status of each platform company. In the future, the researchers also intend to review the impact of private equity investments on patients, providers and practice metrics, including health outcomes, expenditures, procedural volume and staff employment.

Chen E, Cox J, Begaj T, et al. Private equity in ophthalmology and optometry: analysis of acquisitions from 2012 to 2019 in the United States. Ophthalmology. January 10, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].