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Hospital Headlines Color Public Perception

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 25, 2012

"Accretive's debt-collection activity is rife with violations of Minnesota and federal laws," the AG's six-volume report stated. "Accretive has hidden its true identity from patients, aggressively and illegally attempted to collect debts from patients, improperly used patient health information to collect debts, and failed to follow basic laws regarding the registration and conduct of its collectors."

The problem for Fairview, which is otherwise a highly regarded nonprofit healthcare system, is that many in the public understandably will not make a distinction between a hospital and the debt collectors they hire. It is never good publicity for a hospital when activities within its walls are described by a state's top law enforcement officer using language more commonly associated check-cashing outfits and loan-sharking operations.

Accretive already was the subject of a lawsuit by the AG's office after an employee at the debt collection company lost a laptop computer containing unencrypted personal medical records for about 23,500 at Fairview and North Memorial Health Care. Again, the public probably won't make a distinction between Accretive and the hospitals that hired it to protect their medical records.

For now, Accretive isn't saying much. The company issued a brief media statement saying that it has "a great track record of helping hospitals enhance their quality of care."

Fairview issued a statement this week saying it "decided to end our revenue cycle work with Accretive Health.  This was a decision we made in the best interests of our patients and our organization."

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