Intermountain allegedly blocked competition, forcing clinic to close

Intermountain Healthcare was sued this week for refusing to allow stroke patients to receive care at an urgent care clinic, allegedly causing patient harm and forcing the closure of the clinic.

Nancy Futrell, a Utah neurologist, claims Intermountain wanted to block competition and refused to allow patients who had strokes or transient ischemic attack (TIA) to receive care at her Salt Lake City outpatient center, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

The lawsuit alleges Intermountain and its insurance arm SelectHealth conspired to drive Futrell out of business because the center was not included on SelectHealth's provider panels between 1997 and the clinic's closure on March 2013, according to the Tribune.

Intermountain spokesman Daron Cowley told the Tribune the allegations were "baseless." Many hospitals in the state are designated as primary stroke centers or stroke-receiving centers and Intermountain provides quality care to stroke patients, he said.

But Futrell argued her urgent-care stroke clinics provides more efficient, less costly-care for same-day, non-emergency treatment of strokes and TIA. Studies indicate patients should either be hospitalized for 24 hours to 48 hours after a TIA or referred to urgent care stroke clinics. Intermountain, Futrell says, frequently doen't admit stroke patients for overnight observations and instead tells them to schedule an appointment with an Intermountain neurologist within one or two weeks.

To learn more:
- read the article
- check out Intermountain's report on stroke care (.pdf)