It's bad enough Rick Pitino was out carousing on his wife with some Louisville hussy, but now, Norton Hospital in Louisville is bringing some unnecessary attention upon the Possibility City. The WSJ reported that the "starting five" on the Norton Hospital Spine Team is being investigated for performing the third most spinal fusions on Medicare patients between 2004-2008. In addition, they are being singled out for being among the largest recipients nationwide of payments from industry giant Medtronic. One would think that at this point the Evil Empire would stop hiding behind Mama AdvaMed's skirt, claiming their innocence. Unfortunately for Darth Vader, the court of public opinion is all that matters. In the first nine months of 2010, the Dream Team received an estimated $7 million from MDT. LeBron, Dwayne and Chris would be proud, next thing you know, the Louisville 5 will be hanging in South Beach on the Heat's turf. Medtronic is defending itself by stating that the payments are mostly royalties that they earned for designing one of its best selling products.
The overuse of hardware has haunted the spine industry for many years, driving up the cost of delivering healthcare. Yet, in defense of Medtronic, the public must be made aware that without clinician input, companies would not be able to deliver products that improve the public's quality of life. At this juncture, the only method of informing the patient of any financial interest in the implants is when a consent form is signed just prior to surgery. Is there any better way to address this? Does anyone think a patient cares about disclosure when they are in pain, and are looking for a remedy? As for product development, TSB has never met an engineer that has operated on a patient, even though he has worked with few that thought they did. So how does a company validate a product in development? Regardless, the potential for illicit kickbacks does exist. Abuses in consulting agreements became prevalent when companies like Blackstone Medical made it sport. Of course, someone had to be the Gaetan Dugas, aka as "Patient Zero," spreading the consulting disease like the AIDS virus. That honor will always be bestowed upon the Platinum Plus of the spine world.
The most interesting aspect of this report is that spinal fusion went from costing Medicare $343 million in 1997 to $2.24 billion in 2008, a 400% increase. Spinal implants have become exceptional profit generators, at least to this point. And up until this point, rarely did we see an insurance company deny a subscriber, medical care due to pain. But it has become evident that insurance carriers are becoming much more discerning in their approvals, based on the recent BCBS of NC fiasco. What should be troubling is the Workers' Comp study that was published in the Journal of Spine which showed that patients that had a spinal fusion were less likely to return to work within two years post-op, than patients that didn't have invasive surgery for similar diagnoses, with a 27% revision rate for that that had primary fusion. But let's be honest Workers' Comp patients are some of, if not the worst patients to deal with. Rather than beat this issue to death, which it has been by the government, the DOJ (poor job), and even on this blog site, this is what TSB proposes;
A thorough investigation into the products that these surgeons have actually worked on by subpoenaing all of Medtronics and the Louisville 5's records.
Subpoena the IP on these products and see if the Louisville 5 has any ownership in designing these products.
Subpoena all of Medtronic's record to identify if they were paying the Louisville 5 royalties on the implants they were using.
Subpoena Norton's Hospital's pricing with Medtronic and compare it to a national average to see if Medtronic is using the surgeons to obstruct fair and equitable implant pricing compared to other facilities, by demanding the use of Medtronic products when there are other products that are substantially equivalent and can be purchased at a lesser cost to the facility. This would be the perfect opportunity for the Louisville 5 to show that it is a team player and start their own POD.
Linda Richmond use to start her skit every Saturday Night by asking her viewers, "can we talk?" One of TSB's followers had the most interesting comment about this article stating, "You gotta take out the trash, if you're gonna clean this thing up." With Hawkins heading for the hills, it looks like the Evil Empire will be looking for a new leader. As "the Gipper" used to say, "forces of good ultimately rally and triumph over evil." TSB wants to know what our readers think?