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    Friday, January 27, 2023

    Norwich practice joins national network of community oncology providers

    Norwich — Eastern Connecticut Hematology & Oncology Associates, a private practice founded here in 1985, has joined OneOncology, a fast-growing network of more than 250 physicians practicing at more than 150 locations across the country.

    The affiliation will enable ECHO Associates to maintain its independence, according to Dr. Dinesh Kapur, the practice’s managing partner.

    “With hospitals acquiring smaller, independent, private practices, we’ve been under pressure for some time,” Kapur said. “The sad thing about all these acquisitions is that it results in increased costs. Hospitals are charging more for treatments. They’re wiping out competition, trying to monopolize delivery of cancer care.

    “It’s a sad state of affairs,” he said.

    Launched in 2018, OneOncology was founded by a group of community oncology practices and financial and technical experts who sought to pool their resources to provide management services. The major partners include Tennessee Oncology; New York Cancer & Blood Specialists; West Cancer Center of Memphis, Tenn.; and Arizona Blood & Cancer Specialists. ECHO marks the group’s first foray into New England.

    Owned and run by physicians, OneOncology bills itself as the future of cancer care.

    The ECHO-OneOncology affiliation grew out of Kapur’s connection with Dr. Jeffrey Patton, OneOncology’s president of physician services. The two doctors had served together for years on the board of directors of the Community Oncology Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for cancer patients and their providers.

    “We’re cherry-picking the best practices,” Patton said, referring to OneOncology’s interest in adding ECHO Associates. “We’ve got 250 physicians. We’re on our way to 1,000.”

    ECHO Associates will benefit from the “economies of scale” the OneOncology affiliation offers, such as drug-purchasing power and its ability to negotiate patients’ medical benefits, Patton said. “Economies of intelligence” — the sharing of best practices, both clinical and operational — also will be a boon, he said.

    Private practices join OneOncology because it enables them to maintain their independence and “fiscal responsibility,” including physicians’ incomes, and ensures doctors “don’t have to end up working for a big company,” Patton said.

    ECHO Associates’ management services agreement with OneOncology extends for 25 years.

    Kapur called the affiliation “an amazing opportunity” for ECHO Associates, which has its own lab, pharmacy and research department, all of which will be enhanced by the new relationship.

    The practice will continue to occupy offices on the second floor of the Medical Office Building of The William W. Backus Hospital, where Kapur has been the medical director of oncology and an attending physician in hematology, oncology and internal medicine. ECHO Associates has 55 to 60 employees, six physicians and four advanced practice providers.

    On any given day, Kapur said, the practice treats close to 200 patients, most of them from northern and southeastern Connecticut.

    “The biggest thing is that we provide patients with cutting-edge cancer care right in their own backyard,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for 35 years, and now we have a partner that brings more resources and management expertise. But we’re still the same independent practice. Our face won’t change.”

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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