Physician Practice Roundup—Doctor played role in rescue from Thailand cave and more news

A physician's stethoscope
An Australian doctor, who is an experienced cave diver, was called in to assist in the rescue operation in Thailand. (Getty/millionsjoker)

Doctor played role in rescue from Thailand cave

A combination of talents led an Australian doctor, Richard Harris, to play a key role in the rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from a flooded cave in northern Thailand, an operation that captured the world’s attention.

Harris, 53, an experienced cave diver, was due to go on a diving holiday when he received a call from British divers asking him to go to Thailand. The anesthesiologist went into the cave to assess the health of the boys, who had been trapped underground for more than two weeks, and stayed with them for three days. Based on his advice, rescuers reversed their strategy and decided to take the weakest boys out first in the complex rescue operation, followed by the others.

Joy over the successful rescue was cut short by personal tragedy, as Harris’ father died shortly after the rescue’s finish. There was an outpouring of gratitude for Harris on social media, including calls for him to be made Australian of the year, the country’s highest civic honor. (BBC article)

Doctor charged in $40 million workers' comp fraud case

A Houston doctor pleaded not guilty to federal charges Tuesday that he participated in a wide-ranging fraud scheme involving compounded drugs.

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James Don Jackson, M.D., a general surgeon, entered a not guilty plea to charges he took monthly kickbacks to prescribe drugs to federal workers referred to the Top Doctor Therapy Center. He is one of 13 people, including two other doctors, charged in the fraud case that allegedly netted $39.7 million for pharmacies and allowed injured federal workers and members of the U.S. military to obtain pain medication that was medically unnecessary.

Jackson is charged with three counts of healthcare fraud and conspiracy to defraud the government and conspiracy to commit healthcare and wire fraud. A federal indictment also charged Deepak Chavda, M.D., of Dallas, and Jay Bender, M.D., of Atlanta. (Houston Chronicle article)

More physicians work part-time

More physicians are going into part-time practice, a trend that is raising issues about continuity of care and access—the pillars of primary care.

In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full-time, an increase from 7% and 29% in 2005. In an essay in the Annals of Family Medicine, three doctors explore ways in which primary care can adjust to the era of part-time practice, which they describe as an "unstoppable trend."

Their suggestions included ideas such as having part-time physicians spread their hours over four or five days so they are available to patients, developing guidelines so staff can reach physicians with patient questions on nonclinical days, and creating job-sharing arrangements between two physicians who share a panel of patients. (Annals of Family Medicine essay)

Doctors that split from Atrium Health plan $3.1M in new facilities

A medical group made up of about 90 physicians who split from Atrium Health is planning to invest about $3.1 million into new facilities in North Carolina.

Tyron Medical Partners, made up of doctors leaving Atrium, plans to establish a standalone practice with up to 10 locations, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. The group has filed a certificate of need with state regulators seeking approval for two diagnostic centers in the Ballantyne and SouthPark neighborhoods of Charlotte. (Charlotte Business Journal article)

Connecticut health practice pays $300K to settle false claims case

A behavioral health practice in Norwich, Connecticut, has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle alleged False Claims Act violations.

The practice reached an agreement with the state to settle claims it billed Connecticut’s Medicaid program for services provided by unlicensed therapists.

State Attorney General George Jepsen and Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby announced the settlement with Affinity Behavioral Health LLC, a practice co-owned by a mother and daughter who are both licensed behavioral health clinicians. (Announcement)