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When Healthcare Business, Mission Collide

HealthLeaders Media staff, November 15, 2010
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Money, conflict of interest, and antitrust matters are at issue in the delivery of care.

The mission of healthcare and the business of healthcare often work in concert. And while the goals may be the same, the individual focus may vary, creating conflict or concern. Our online news team regularly monitors such issues. This piece is based on reports from Cheryl Clark, Karen Cheung, and John Commins. To see the original stories, visit www.healthleadersmedia.com and click on the e-Newsletters link.

Physicians prevail in Arkansas conflict-of-interest case

The Supreme Court of Arkansas has sided with physicians who argued that Baptist Health acted improperly when it denied them staff privileges because they owned shares in a competing hospital.

The case stems from a Baptist Health Board of Trustees vote in May 2003 in which the board approved a conflict-of-interest policy. That policy resulted in barring two cardiologists—Bruce Murphy, MD, and D. Andrew Henry, MD—from having clinical staff privileges because they owned an indirect interest in the Arkansas Heart Hospital, according to the complaint.

The doctors took legal action in 2004 against the Little Rock healthcare system, alleging violations of the federal anti-kickback statute, the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud Act, the state's false claims act, and the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Baptist, which has five hospitals, numerous clinics, and several other specialty services, successfully moved to dismiss the complaint. That prompted the doctors to file a lawsuit in county court claiming Baptist's actions prohibiting them from holding privileges "constituted tortious interference."

The decision was reversed. That and subsequent decisions in other state courts favoring the doctors were upheld on Sept. 30 by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

The American Medical Association applauded the court's ruling, saying it "validates a key legal victory that found Baptist Health, Arkansas' largest hospital system, acted improperly by inappropriately restricting hospital admitting privileges and interfering with the patient-physician relationship" based on financial concerns, said AMA President Cecil B. Wilson, MD.

Baptist Health spokesman Mark Lowman said the ruling was "disappointing" and that Baptist is reviewing it to determine the next step.

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