Sparks fly in Iowa whistle-blowing case

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Allegations of inappropriate imaging and Medicare fraud are flying between a University of Iowa radiologist and university officials, who claim that Malik E. Juweid, MD, violated HIPAA by sending protected health information to Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), among other unauthorized officials.

In a series of emails obtained by Health Imaging News, an attorney for Juweid said that the professor of radiology had compiled information which demonstrated that radiologists and pediatricians in the University of Iowa Health Care (UIHC) system ordered PET/CT scans on healthy children in an attempt drive additional profits for the organization

“In our view, the UIHC favors profits over the health and well being being of its patients,” wrote Rockne Cole, JD, an attorney in Iowa City who is representing Juweid, in a May 12 email to the university. “This practice has exposed children to dangerous amounts of radiation, increasing the risk of leukemia by about 10-fold.”

Cole claimed that Juweid had gathered information on pediatric patients demonstrating that the healthy children had undergone unnecessary, radiation-inducing PET/CT scans. Juweid presented the information to Iowa’s Board of Medicine for investigation in what his lawyer called a commendable case of whistle blowing.

“The allegations are baseless—there is absolutely no foundation to them whatsoever,” said Tom Moore, a spokesperson for the University of Iowa’s Hospitals and Clinics. In an email response to Juweid’s attorney, associate counsel for the university, Robert K. Porter, JD, rejected that Juweid’s allegations resembled anything like fact finding or an investigation.

Moore further told Health Imaging News that the university had charged Juweid for the violation of HIPAA. In addition to releasing patient information to the Iowa Board of Medicine, Juweid sent the information to several physicians and university officials, as well as to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, Moore claimed.

Juweid’s attorney insisted that the evidence his client released did not constitute protected health information.

Cole also leveled charges at the university for “possible Medicare fraud” in his email to the university. Moreover, Cole claimed that the university had acted in a retaliatory manner to punish Juweid for attempting to blow the whistle on inappropriate imaging exams.

Juweid was scheduled to meet with an investigator from Iowa’s Board of Medicine this past Friday, according to his attorney, who could not be reached for comment.

The University of Iowa vowed to pursue with seriousness the HIPAA-violation charges it lodged against Juweid, while asserting, “Patient care and safety is, and will always continue to be, the highest priority for UIHC [University of Iowa Health Care].”