Just follow the Money for Cardiac Stents
The Times article is pretty scathing and implicates his hospital, St. Josephs, who treated him like a king and gave him a $1.2 million dollar salary just to be on the medical staff and bring those $10,000 cases to their institution. St. Josephs settled with the OIG by paying a $22 million dollar fine for charges that it paid a kickback to Dr. Midei.
Abbott labs, the maker of the expensive stent, was thrilled with his excessive surgeries and showered additional millions in consulting fees and perks for the good doctor since he was one of their best customers. The fact that he inserted 1200 stents annually, a number that would raise professional eyebrows, didn't phase the stent maker.
I mention history repeating because there have been a number of similar high profile cases across the country over the past 5 years. In 2005 a group of cardiac surgeons in Redding, California and the hospital owned by Tenet Healthcare paid nearly $1/2 billion to settle charges of unnecessary surgery. The cardiologists did not lose their licenses. Can you believe that?
Other cases include another Maryland cardiologist and a Louisiana cardiologist who did jail time for similar offenses.
About 1 million angioplasties are done in the United States each year and half are for non-emergencies. Studies reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 and 2007 showed that stents were unnecessary in many cases and that patients who received medication instead of stent had a slightly longer life expectancy. NEJM also estimated that 100,000 heart attack patients in the U.S. do not need stents even though they are placed. A 3rd article in NEJM in 2009 showed stents have been overused and cause potentially dangerous care.
So how do these cardiologists and hospitals continue to get away with it? The decision to place a stent is often made "on the spot" during the angioplasty based on the doctors impression of how much blockage is seen. The patient is told he had a 90% blockage and "isn't it lucky we found it in time and saved you from a heart attack?" Patients see the cardiologist as a savior. (I know Cardiologists who have received vacations, cruises, tickets to the Super Bowl from grateful patients)
Invasive Cardiologists who bring in the business are treated like kings at the hospital. The "rainmaker" top physician is often the director of the cardiology catheterization lab. Other specialist doctors are often part of the same group and the cardiology departments are small. The hospital likes being the epicenter of cardiac referrals and has no incentive for enforcing peer review of the cases. Dr. Midei ran the peer review at St. Josephs, guaranteeing no-one would be looking at his work.
Almost all of the surgery abuses at all of the hospitals over the past 5 years were discovered via a whistleblower. I do not know of one that was discovered because of peer review.
St. Josephs Hospital was accredited by The Joint Commission last month and is in full compliance with all applicable standards.