Dean, two rads out at MU Health System amid fraud investigation

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The dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri, Columbia, will step down this year amid a federal investigation into alleged Medicare billing fraud by two radiologists.

Dean Robert Churchill, MD, will leave the university in October, according to an announcement made June 1 by Harold A. Williamson, Jr., MD, vice chancellor of the University of Missouri Health System.

In addition, the two radiologists at the center of the controversy, Kenneth L. Rall, MD, and Michael Richards, MD, are no longer employed by the University of Missouri Health System, according to a press release issued by the organization. Rall had stepped down as radiology department chairman in December, but had remained a professor, according to the Associated Press.

"As the result of our investigation, we believe that two radiologists, Dr. Kenneth Rall and Dr. Michael Richards, violated Medicare and hospital rules by certifying that they had performed services that were actually performed by resident physicians," Williamson said. Resident physicians can read patient x-rays, but Medicare rules require that attending radiologists also review the images.

"We believe these two doctors sometimes claimed that they had actually completed this second review without actually looking at the image,” Williamson said in the release, adding that the university has found no evidence that patient care was compromised or that unnecessary tests were ordered.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas City, Mo., is currently conducting a seven-month investigation into the potential fraud, according to the Associated Press.

The department of radiology at the university will adjust processes with regard to how doctors view and report on patient images, and safeguards will be added to software physicians use to analyze images, according to the health system. The organization will also have “independent radiology experts” conduct a review and any patients who might benefit from further image review or testing will be contacted.

Rall had left Columbia 25 years ago after charges he embezzled money from business partners, but he returned to work for the school of medicine in 1998, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. In January, Rall was named Boone County Medical Society Doctor of the Year for 2011.