Heart Check America Fined $3.2M for Unauthorized CT Scans
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has fined Heart Check America $3,199,465 — the largest ever penalty in the history of the state’s Radiation Program — for conducting CT scans on patients without orders from doctors, as well as for other violations.
Heart Check America, which operates (or has operated) clinics in California, Illinois, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C., abruptly closed its Denver office in early May after inspectors found the violations. The company’s assets will be auctioned to raise money to pay debts, and CDPHE officials will monitor the auction to make sure that whoever buys the CT scanner complies with state radiation safety regulations.
The company was fined for nine violations, including the following six: exposing patients to the CT scanner without a written order by a Colorado-licensed physician; failure to have a Colorado-licensed physician supervise the facility’s electron beam CT scanner; failure to have policies and procedures to ensure safe use of the CT scanner; failure to use adequately trained employees to operate the CT scanner; failure to monitor employees’ radiation exposure; and failure to register as a healing arts screening program with the state.
As The Associated Press reports, via The Wall Street Journal:
Warren Smith, a spokesman with the state health department’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division, said other states where Heart Check America conducted business are also investigating but Smith did not have additional details.
Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment writes:
‘When we contacted Heart Check America in April, we gave them an opportunity to correct their violations,’ said Brian Vamvakias, X-Ray Certification Unit leader. ‘They stopped all communication with us and we were left with no choice but to proceed with escalated enforcement and assess these penalties.’
‘Heart Check America was exposing approximately 150 customers per week to potentially unnecessary radiation doses without a doctor’s involvement,’ Vamvakias said. ‘These exams can provide important diagnostic information to a medical professional and are necessary in many instances to determine the presence or extent of a disease. But patients should submit to X-Ray and CT exams on the recommendation of their doctor, not on the advice of a salesman.’
The order names Heart Check America-Denver, LLC; Sheila Haddad; David Haddad; Lisa Haddad; and Todd Kaplan, who have 30 days to pay the penalty or to request a hearing. Money collected from penalties goes to the state’s general fund, not to the department assessing the penalty.
According to an inspector with the X-ray certification unit of the state health department, officials are not aware of any cases where someone was injured by having a CT scan at Heart Check America’s Denver clinic. However, Consumer Reports says that, for many people, CT scans as diagnostic tests can be not only a waste of money, but dangerous.
“The likelihood of finding something harmful is too low to justify the dose of radiation you can get from a CT scan, or its cost,” said Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports.
People who may have been defrauded by Heart Check America can file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General at www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/complaint, or by calling 303-866-5189.