The New York Times article, “Hospital Chain Inquiry Cited Unnecessary Cardiac Work” discussed HCA (the largest for profit hospital chain) performing unnecessary cardiac procedures on their patients in order to drive up the hospital’s bottom line. The investigation into the procedures began following a letter by a former nurse that worked for the hospital. The letter led to an internal investigation which revealed that doctors at the Lawnwood Regional Medical Center (LRMC) were performing procedures on patients that did not need them.
At the LRMC between 2002-2010 numerous unjustified cardiac procedures were performed. Furthermore, misleading remarks were found in the patient’s files in order to make the procedures appear necessary. These procedures resulted in injury to some of the patients; including a woman who went into cardiac arrest as a result of a cut vessel during a stent implantation that she did not need. The hospital/skilled nursing facility has allowed some of the doctors engaging in unnecessary procedures to practice at the hospital.
When the New York Times looked into the internal investigations that HCA has conducted, it revealed some disturbing data; especially in light of the growing elderly population which the hospital serves. The hospital’s internal records showed a focus on the hospital’s profit margin rather than harm done to the patients.
This type of practice is not unique to the LRMC, in fact, the investigation uncovered that the Cedars Medical Center also had problems in the cardiac catheterization lab in 2002. Following this, in 2003, HCA said that eight physicians had been suspended from doing certain cardiac procedures and that HCA would refund hospital claims. No record of whether the hospital/skilled nursing facility had actually refunded the claims has been found.
Perhaps the reason HCA is doing little to correct this problem has to do with increased profits from these unnecessary procedures. With the billing of Medicare for a cardiac stent up to $10,000 and for diagnostic catherization costing $3,000-although the unnecessary procedures are harmful to patients, they are definitely not harmful to the hospital’s bottom line.