Brightheart eyes network of advanced-care hospitals

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Greenwich, Conn.- A new york practice combining general veterinary medicine, specialty services and a 24-hour, emergency-care unit is a private equity firm's first acquisition toward its goal of creating a nationwide network of pet hospitals focused on advanced treatment, diagnosis and research.

GREENWICH, CONN.— A new york practice combining general veterinary medicine, specialty services and a 24-hour, emergency-care unit is a private equity firm's first acquisition toward its goal of creating a nationwide network of pet hospitals focused on advanced treatment, diagnosis and research.

Unified Growth Partners LP of Greenwich, Conn., purchased the Katonah-Bedford Veterinary Clinic (KBVC) in Bedford Hills, N.Y., through a company called BrightHeart Veterinary Centers that it created to form the network.

Already invested in the education field, the partners moved into the veterinary industry because of market research showing a steady increase in demand for quality animal care.

The BrightHeart network expects to add up to three additional practices by year's end, and continue to grow by two to four practices per year going forward, says company Vice President Robert Miner.

The goal is to partner general practitioners and specialists through the entire animal-care process, improving communication and teamwork that often are hindered by the referral process, says Alan Green, DVM and former KBVC owner who is now BrightHeart's director of practice management.

"This ultimately translates into improved communication with the pet owner, which serves as an example of searching and striving for the best medicine," Green says.

BrightHeart's technical capabilities will allow affiliated hospitals to conduct clinical research and trials nationwide, while also monitoring invoices, patient medication, dosage and treatment plans for accuracy and efficiency, Green says. Sharing costly advanced technology among many affiliates will make it cost-effective, he says.

Oncologist Philip Bergman, DVM, PhD, MS, DACVIM, former head of the Animal Medical Center's cancer clinic in New York City, will lead BrightHeart's research program.

BrightHeart's plan goes "beyond forward-thinking," says Bergman, who will use the network to continue his research on the canine melanoma vaccine, among other oncology focuses. "We can take advantage of this network and perform clinical trials that have never been done in such an expanded way. It seems BrightHeart will be able to emerge as another significant source of high-end veterinary research," says Bergman, noting that non-academic specialty clinics typically have played a limited role in advanced research. Trials tentatively are set to begin in three to six months.

Bergman says he hopes BrightHeart's practice model will be well-received in the profession. "Promoting this bond — the team concept of the veterinarian, specialist, pet and client — remarkably increases the excitement and interest of technicians, veterinarians and all the way through," he says. "I see the future of veterinary medicine as trying to enhance care for pets, making it affordable and working as a team, not separate islands. I hope folks will be open to looking at this type of an arrangement, and I hope they realize it's all about offering the very best care to the pet."

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