In order to provide patients with the best possible care, doctors need to be updated on their condition and informed if they are admitted to the hospital. When doctors do not receive this information it can put their patients, especially patients with fragile conditions, in danger. One hospital in Southern California has allegedly refused to notify doctors about their patients. The leadership of a Prime Healthcare Services hospital allegedly refused to notify some doctors about their patients when they refused to engage in profit-driven practices.
There was a yearlong California Watch series that documented a high rate of severe medical conditions that can be very lucrative at Prime hospitals. They also found an aggressive approach when patients were admitted from the emergency room into the hospitals as opposed to sending the patients home. For example, data showed that in 2009 Prime hospitals admitted 63 percent of Medicare-funded emergency room patients compared to the 39 percent admitted by the other leading for-profit hospital in the state. When doctors admit patients to the hospital they receive higher Medicare reimbursements.
The physician group that is suing the hospital, Chino Valley Medical Center, and its directors, said that they were asked to admit patients into hospital beds from the emergency room even when it was not necessary. Some doctors said they were urged to admit patients who were insured for complaints as minor as a headache. Physicians were also encouraged to say the patient’s condition was more complex and severe than they actually were. These practices are alleged by the physicians to be used to drive up hospital bills. When the physicians refused they said that they started not receiving notifications that their patients ended up in the hospital.
The hospital has stated that they routinely contact primary care doctors about the arrival of patients in the emergency room. The plaintiff doctors however are called when the patients request that they be contacted. The hospital asserts that they are not required to contact HMO contracted physicians.
This lawsuit is the first time that a small group of doctors has gone to court to criticize the practices of the hospital. When patients go to the hospital they often want to talk to a doctor they are familiar with and who has been overseeing their treatment for years. However patients are being prevented from seeing their doctors and the doctors do not even know when they are in the emergency room. This means that doctors are treating patients when they have very little knowledge of the patient’s medical history or knowledge of prior and ongoing care. In some cases patients were given tests and drug prescriptions without their doctor’s knowledge. This interference with the patients care could be detrimental to a patient’s health possibly resulting in serious injury or even death.
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