June 26, 2009 (Lafayette, Louisiana) — An interventional cardiologist who implanted stents in patients who did not need them has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for healthcare fraud. Dr Mehmood Patel, formerly of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and Lafayette General Hospital in Louisiana, was convicted on 51 counts of billing private and government health insurers for unnecessary medical procedures and received the maximum sentence.
Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and Lafayette General Hospital both suspended Patel's privileges in late 2003 or early 2004 as a result of their own internal investigations. Elisabeth Arnold, a spokesperson at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, told heartwire that the hospital reached legal closure on the issue long before Patel's sentencing.
The hospital paid $3.8 million in 2006 to settle a US Department of Justice false-claims lawsuit and also paid an additional $7.4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by Patel's former patients. Arnold noted that in the past several years, the hospital has "increased physician leadership in our organization, implemented more stringent policies, and improved peer-review initiatives."
Patel's trial began in October 2008 and lasted 11 weeks. The 64-year-old doctor was initially indicted on 91 charges of fraud involving 75 patients. During his trial, 80 government witnesses testified, as did experts from Emory University, the University of Pennsylvania, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, and the University of California, Los Angeles. The medical experts testified about a small number of procedures performed by Patel during a three-year period covered by the indictment, but their testimony stated that Patel performed tests and procedures in patients with little or no disease, according to the Department of Justice .
Testimony during the trial also revealed that Patel falsified patient symptoms in medical records, including chest pain when patients never complained of such pain, and falsified findings on medical tests. From 1999 to 2003, Patel billed Medicare and private insurance companies more than $3 million, according to the Advocate, a Baton Rouge, LA newspaper . During this time, he was the top cardiology biller in the state and personally pocketed more than $500 000.
US District Court Judge Tucker Melançon called Patel "a brilliant and talented physician" and stated he was unsure whether the doctor was driven by pure greed or ego. Regardless, Melançon had little sympathy for Patel when sentencing him, noting that the doctor lied during his 19 days of testimony, contradicting findings made by the government witness, according to the Advocate.
Patel, who had been in clinical practice in Louisiana for 25 years, begins serving his sentence on July 6, 2009 at a federal facility in Oakdale, LA. He plans to appeal his conviction.
Heartwire from Medscape © 2009 Medscape, LLC
Cite this: Cardiologist Gets 10 Years for Performing Unnecessary Interventions - Medscape - Jun 26, 2009.