“March 3, 2003 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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Not too many issues ago, THE DARK REPORT was bemoaning the fact that the pathology profession has yet to replace those pathologist-entrepreneurs of the 1970s and 1980s who built some of the largest laboratory companies still operating today. But that overlooks recognition to pathologist Tom Grogan, M.D., who is a founding partner of Ventana Medical Systems, based in Tucson, Arizona. Grogan is the sole finalist among 30 nominees for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in Arizona. This makes Grogan automatically eligible for possible selection as the national Entrepreneur of the Year.

ProxyMed Inc., based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a firm worth watching. It recently bought MedUnite, the healthcare dot.com electronic clearing house founded by several of the nation’s largest health insurers. It is working diligently to create capabilities to link physicians’ offices with other providers, including clinical laboratories.

WHY ER’S DON’T ORDER ALCOHOL AND DRUG TESTS

Here’s evidence that lawsuits, lawyers, and insurance company activities do affect how some physicians order and use laboratory tests. On February 26, 2003, The Wall Street Journal reported that “most of the nation’s emergency rooms and trauma centers don’t routinely run blood alcohol tests or ‘tox screens’ on patients thought to be intoxicated.” This situation is a result of decades-old laws in 38 states and the District of Columbia that “give insurers the option to deny medical reimbursements to patients under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.” ER doctors know that insurance companies can deny claims if the lab test results appear on patient records. The WSJ quoted Larry Gentilello, M.D., Chief of Trauma and Surgical and Critical Care at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. “Doctors don’t test because they are afraid they won’t get paid,” he said.

ADD TO: ER Testing

Alcohol and drug-related injuries are believed to play a role in as many as half of all emergency room visits annually. Because of this fact, billions of healthcare dollars are affected by state laws that allow insurers to deny coverage. Dr. Gentilello and others have launched a campaign to reform or repeal these laws.

P.S. to ER Testing:

In a related item, lawmakers continue to struggle with drugs-of-abuse issues. The Arkansas State Legislature recently passed a law making it “illegal to sell or use ‘clean urine’ for the purpose of passing a drug or alcohol test.”

More intelligence is leaking out of IMPATH, Inc. about the abrupt departure of its long-time Chairman and CEO Anu D. Saad, Ph.D. in an expense account scandal. As reported last issue, Saad resigned following an accounting review of expenses from the past three years that revealed a “lapse of corporate integrity.” Saad will repay $250,000. Since that disclosure, several sources have confirmed that the amount of questionable expenses was significantly higher. One source claimed the number was actually as high as $2.5 million. IMPATH has not provided additional details about this matter.

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