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HCA Probe Reignites Questions Over Interventional Appropriateness

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 27, 2012

Important questions remain in the wake of the federal inquiry into whether cardiologists at HCA, the largest hospital corporation in the nation, performed some 1,200 allegedly unnecessary cardiac procedures on patients—interventions that potentially exposed them to complications at a huge cost to the healthcare system.

Details of the investigations by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami of the for-profit chain's operations remain unclear. The public does not know at which hospitals these procedures were alleged to have taken place, with the exception of three Florida facilities: Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, and Cedars Medical Center in Miami, no longer an HCA facility.

It's also unknown whether the patients came through the emergency room with chest pain that turned out to be non-emergent—for example heartburn—rather than life-threatening artery occlusions, for example.

And it is not known whether patients were referred to cardiologists for an annual checkup or stress test and then needlessly ended up in a cath lab. It's also unclear when these unnecessary cases occurred, although there's some indication some were at least two years ago.

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