Associated Eye Care of Minnesota and Castling Partners Form New Management Services Organization

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STILLWATER, Minn.—Associated Eye Care, a longtime diversified practice with offices here and in four other locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, has teamed up with Castling Partners LLC  of Minneapolis to form Associated Eye Care Partners (AECP), a management services organization (MSO), according to an announcement this week. Castling Partners is a privately held advisory and asset development firm comprised of senior health care professionals with significant experience in the delivery of health care, health care policy and health care operations and financing.

AECP will specialize in developing, managing, advising and investing in comprehensive eyecare services provided by independent practices, community health systems and academic health centers, the announcement noted. Associated Eye Care is a comprehensive, diversified practice that has provided adult and pediatric eyecare services for nearly 50 years in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The new management services organization does not intend to purchase medical practices from ophthalmologists and optometrists, but instead will “work as partners to enhance a practice’s performance for its owners,” according to the announcement. “AECP will invest in and co-venture eyecare services with practitioners and health systems.”

Daniel Zismer, a co-founder of Castling Partners, is the co-chairman and chief executive officer, of AECP, according to the firm’s website. Zismer has also served as the Wegmiller Professor and chair for the masters in health care administration and executive studies programs, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota. Earlier, Zismer focused a 20-year career in health care on provider-side mergers, acquisitions and related integrated strategies. Dr. Gary Schwartz, who joined Associated Eye Care in 1995, also is a co-chairman and executive medical director of the new organization.

AECP’s mission is “advancing eyecare through sound business practice” with a core philosophy that engaged doctors practice better medicine, the announcement noted. AECP services include project-specific consulting; retainer-based, ongoing advisory relationships; comprehensive management service agreements, and business partnerships, capital investment and management.

“Demographics favor continuing growth of eye services within the U.S. population,” AECP said in its announcement. “With consolidation of the commercial payers and cost of care concerns by the government payers, downward pressures on price, utilization and total costs of care will continue. Competition for health services demand, including eye services, in markets will increase. Expensive practice buy-ins for younger providers will challenge the capital structures of independent practices. Buy-outs for retiring physicians will be at risk.”