News: Court rejects hospital's attempt to limit admitting privileges

June 1, 2009

Court in Arkansas ruled that hospital acted improperly when it used a credentialing policy that denied admitting privileges to doctors with interest in competing hospitals.

A state trial court in Arkansas ruled that a hospital acted improperly when it used a credentialing policy that denied admitting privileges to doctors with interests in competing hospitals, according to American Medical News (3/16/09). The case arose after Baptist Health, the largest hospital system in Arkansas, instituted what it calls an economic conflict-of-interest policy in 2003. As a result, 12 staff cardiologists who owned a specialty facility, Arkansas Heart Hospital, lost their privileges at Baptist Health and sued the facility.

Judge Collins Kilgore found that Baptist's policy was based on suppressing competition from physician-owned specialty hospitals rather than furthering patient care. Writing that "the heart of this case is the patient-physician relationship," the judge noted that "Arkansas protects the patient's right to the physician of their choice" and that the hospital's economic credentialing policy "interferes with that choice." By extension, he said, the policy interferes with the patient-physician relationship and therefore is contrary to public policy.

The American Medical Association and the Arkansas Medical Society joined the case as plaintiffs, and the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies provided financial help. At least 13 states have laws restricting or prohibiting economic credentialing, but Arkansas is not among them.