This past August, the largest for-profit hospital chain in the United States uncovered evidence that doctors at its many locations performed heart surgeries that were deemed unnecessary.The New York Times reports that in 2010, a former nurse wrote a letter to the chief ethics officer of the chain (called HCA) blowing the whistle on his former employer.
An investigation of 10 hospitals in question recently concluded. Researchers found that the surgeries in question took place between 2002 and 2010. The Times reporter explains, “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.”
Some journalists assert that the motivation for doctors to perform these surgeries is financial: according to The New York Times, HCA’s hospitals in Florida perform thousands of cardiac procedures per year, and Medicare reimburses them approximately $10,000 for each one and about $3,000 per diagnostic catheterization.
It should be noted at this point that HCA firmly denies any wrongdoing. They write that their actions stem from a desire to “demonstrate the strong focus we have on quality patient care.”The Times adds, “The company also says that more than 80 percent of its hospitals are in the top 10 percent of government rankings for quality.”
Sarah Cliff at The Washington Post explains that “our current health care system operates on the ‘pay-for-service’ system, in which, quite simply, patients pay more for more services.” She adds, “There’s a lot of griping about this ‘fee-for-service’ payment model…It nudges doctors to deliver the most health care, even when less could be better for the patient–not to mention better for bringing down health care costs.”
A Reuters report follows up on this last claim: “[P]ressure is growing on the U.S. health care system to find ways to rein in costs…Recent studies have questioned the potential overuse of highly profitable interventional heart procedures in the United States, such as stenting and the placing of ICDs [implantable cardio-defibrillators; both are procedures mentioned in the investigation].”
Cliff, in her article, also adds that this practice is by no means limited to hospitals owned by HCA: “This happens so much that there’s actually a term for it in the medical literature. ‘Oculostenotic reflex’ was defined over a decade ago as the ‘irresistible temptation’ on the part of interventional cardiologists to expand narrowed coronary arteries, despite ‘evidence-based guidelines’ suggesting the use of a different intervention, such as medication (which comes with fewer risks and at a lower cost).” In other words, many patients would benefit from a course of medication, but there is great incentive on behalf of doctors to perform a more advanced and expensive procedure.
This is all troubling and problematic not only because patients often have to pay for unnecessary procedures that their doctors recommend, but also because of the inherent dangers of heart surgery, not to mention the risk of surgical malpractice or other possible personal injuries and complications.
Inclined Sleepers: The Hidden Danger in Your Nursery Feldman Shepherd product liability attorneys Alan M. Feldman, Daniel J. Mann and Edward S. Goldis discuss the dangers of inclined infant sleepers and why reports of 73 infant deaths and more than 1,000 incidents were allowed to mount for 14 years at the Consumer Product Safety Commission…
Aviation attorney/licensed pilot G. Scott Vezina explains the history of Boeing’s 737 MAX and takes listeners “inside the cockpit” to understand why the plane crashed twice, killing hundreds of people, before aviation authorities worldwide grounded it.
Our website, like many others, uses small files called cookies to help us customize your experience.
You can adjust all of your cookie settings by navigating the tabs on the left hand side.
If you decline, your information won’t be tracked when you visit this website. A single cookie will be used in your browser to remember your preference not to be tracked.
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.