The New York Times has an interesting article concerning unnecessary cardiac procedures allegedly carried out at a national chain of hospitals at its Florida facilities. Here's a brief excerpt.
HCA, the largest for-profit hospital chain in the United States with 163 facilities, had uncovered evidence as far back as 2002 and as recently as late 2010 showing that some cardiologists at several of its hospitals in Florida were unable to justify many of the procedures they were performing ... In some cases, the doctors made misleading statements in medical records that made it appear the procedures were necessary, according to internal reports.
Questions about the necessity of medical procedures — especially in the realm of cardiology — are not uncommon. None of the internal documents reviewed calculate just how many such procedures there were or how many patients might have died or been injured as a result. But the documents suggest that the problems at HCA went beyond a rogue doctor or two.
. . .
In a recent statement, HCA declined to provide evidence that it had alerted Medicare, state Medicaid or private insurers of its findings, or reimbursed them for any of the procedures that the company later deemed unnecessary, as required by law.
“When the company becomes aware of a situation in which we might have a reimbursement obligation, we assess, with outside resources, what our reimbursement obligations might be,” the statement said.
HCA also declined to show that it had ever notified patients, who might have been entitled to compensation from the hospital for any harm.
. . .
C. T. Tomlinson [a nurse] said he could not believe his eyes as Dr. Abdul Shadani prepared to insert a stent in a heart patient in the cardiac catheterization lab of HCA’s Lawnwood hospital in the late spring of 2008.
Mr. Tomlinson, a traveling nurse who had worked at more than a dozen cath labs before arriving at Lawnwood, said in a telephone interview that he saw no blockages in the images of the patient’s artery.
“Sir, what are we going to fix?” Mr. Tomlinson recalled asking Dr. Shadani. The doctor responded by asking the nurse if he did not see the 90 percent blockage in the artery. Mr. Tomlinson did not, and looked at the others in the room. They all shrugged, he said, and Dr. Shadani inserted the stent.
Mr. Tomlinson reported his concerns to hospital officials. Shortly after, he was told his contract would not be renewed. An internal memo, however, concluded that Mr. Tomlinson had been retaliated against.
. . .
Cardiology is a lucrative business for HCA, and the profits from testing and performing heart surgeries played a critical role in the company’s bottom line in recent years.
Some of HCA’s busiest Florida hospitals perform thousands of stent procedures each year. Medicare reimburses hospitals about $10,000 for a cardiac stent and about $3,000 for a diagnostic catheterization.
There's more at the link.
I highly recommend reading the whole article. I'm convinced that this problem extends far beyond the few Florida facilities identified in the report - in fact, I'm willing to bet it may be found in every state in the Union.