Interview with Dr. Gregg DeNicola – Co-founder of Caduceus Medical Group
When he was merely a high schooler, Dr. Gregg DeNicola discovered his passion for practicing medicine while volunteering at a pediatric ward. “I remember watching kids light up when we visited, and the faces of their parents too.” Coming from a proud, hardworking, blue-collar family with a small liquor store business, Dr. DeNicola was determined (and pushed by his parents) to become professional by trade and used his volunteering experience as a sign that he belonged in medicine. In his interview with Top Doctor Magazine, Dr. DeNicola describes his experience of practicing Family Medicine for over thirty-five years and co-founding Caduceus Medical Group (CMG), an innovative physician-owned multi-specialty group in Orange County.
Medical Training and a Double-edged Corporate Experience
Dr. DeNicola has a bright academic record, received a Bachelor of Science Cum Laude, and completed medical school at Creighton University. He completed his internship and residency at Northridge Hospital (UCLA School of Medicine). In the early 80s, Dr. DeNicola started in a small Family Practice Group, allowing him to start an Independent Physicians Association (IPA) managed care group a few years later. This business was a very successful venture and handled things like HMO contracts and managed care. Due to its success, they took the company public in the 90s. By 1997 Dr. DeNicola started to see the problem with the single-minded obsession with corporate profits – “We discovered that a doctors group probably shouldn’t be a publicly run company, maybe for hospitals or pharmaceutical companies – that’s OK, but not doctors… In the public marketplace, the need to make a profit is so great, but health care really shouldn’t be about making a profit.”
Co-founding Caduceus Medical Group
Fed up with the drag of a constant corporate need for profit, Dr. DeNicola co-founded Caduceus Medical Group on January 1, 1999. Under his leadership, Dr. DeNicola and a handful of other close physician co-founders created a new kind of multi-specialty medical group that was less weighed down by shareholders and government interference. The group was also not locked into certain hospital systems and specific pharmaceutical companies. Instead, Caduceus Medical Group’s business model puts the doctors and community they serve first by giving their patients an innovative high amount of freedom of choice in specialists, hospitals, medicine, cash price lists, and guaranteed access to care as a cornerstone of operating philosophy. This setup is similar to the local community multi-specialty medical group business model that was commonplace before the corporate takeover of medical groups in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the difference between those early multi-specialty practices and Caduceus Medical Group is that CMG created six locations throughout Orange County without outsourcing any billing, collection, coding, or upper management. “We’re definitely run by our doctors, and we’re fiercely independent, so we don’t allow hospitals to affiliate with us, or any HMO, or health system. We truly only have one customer, and that’s our patients,” Dr. DeNicola proudly states.
Expanding the Business
Caduceus Medical Group has added several expansions to the group through the years. What started with just a mix of Family Practice, Pediatrics, and OB-GYN specialists has expanded into Physical Therapy, Radiology, Psychology, Urgent Care, and labs. “We did it organically. We didn’t really make any acquisitions. Maybe a few tiny ones, but we mostly kept reinvesting profits in ourselves, and that prevented us from going to hospitals on our knees,” Dr. DeNicola shares. Today, CMG is open to more investment and looking to hire more doctors and specialists to expand the company into Los Angeles and Southern California.
Differences in Business Model from Competitors
“They all have the term ‘healthcare system’ – which means they control the doctors, the hospital, the health plan, the pharmacy, as much of the pie as they can control is what makes them a ‘system.’ We’re very proud not to be part of a system. We’re your doctor.” In short, Dr. DeNicola tells us that CMG gives the patient the power to choose their desired hospital or specialist (provided their insurance companies will cooperate), which sets them apart from other healthcare systems.
COVID-19 and Telemedicine
Fortunately, Dr. DeNicola tells Top Doctor Magazine that his organization has been using telemedicine for patients since 2014. When the first wave of the pandemic rocked the country’s healthcare system, CMG was able to quickly adapt to the pandemic with their existing online/app appointment system and a fully operational telemedicine healthcare protocol in place. Despite this, unfortunately, several of the staff were still affected by the pandemic. Dr. DeNicola himself also suffered from lingering severe effects of coronavirus pneumonia, which has sidelined him from caring for patients in person.
What’s Next for The COVID-19 Long-Haulers?
Dr. DeNicola is currently concerned about treating the next phase of this pandemic, the COVID-19 long-haulers. “By long haulers, we mean patients who have symptoms of COVID-19 two months or more after they had the bug. Usually, these symptoms are different from when they were sick. Depression, PTSD, heart attack strokes, these things aren’t rare.” Dr. DeNicola is hopeful for national herd immunity to be achieved possibly by Halloween this year, and perhaps then a shift into preventing it from coming back. Still, Dr. DeNicola is noticing a need for vigilance against the virus, “I tell my patients, it’s like the coronavirus is a poodle. And COVID-19 didn’t mutate into a pitbull…it mutated into a pack of wolves. It’s one really, really mean virus.” Despite the pandemic, Dr. DeNicola is adamant that new doctors be wary of focusing on profits. They need to go back to putting patients first now more than ever.