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Pulmonary Hypertension Program Earns National Accreditation Print E-mail
Written by FHInews   
Friday, 03 July 2020 07:29

By delivering comprehensive, expert care to patients with a life-threatening disease, the University of Miami Health System and Jackson Memorial Hospital now offer the first accredited Pulmonary Hypertension Care Center program in South Florida.

“This is a major accomplishment for the Miller School of Medicine’s Divisions of Pulmonary, Cardiology and Critical Care,” said David J. De La Zerda, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, fellowship program director, and director of pulmonary/critical care. “It reflects our team’s ability to diagnose and treat this rare lung condition, including medical therapies, clinical trials and transplant procedures.”

In June, the national Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) awarded accreditation to the Pulmonary Hypertension Program, which provides clinical services at UHealth Tower, the Diabetes Research Institute, The Lennar Foundation Medical Center, The Miami Transplant Institute, Jackson Ambulatory Care Center, and Jackson Multispecialty Center. It is the fourth center in Florida, and the first in the region, to be recognized by the PHA-Accredited PH Care Centers (PHCC) initiative for offering special expertise and raising the overall quality of care and outcomes in patients.

Pulmonary hypertension is a rare lung disease in which the pulmonary arteries become narrowed, making it difficult for blood to flow from the right side of the heart into the lungs. It is different from hypertension – which affects the arteries on the left side of the heart – and can affect anyone, regardless of age or ethnic background. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, swollen ankles, chest pain and an irregular heartbeat.

“Our program is the largest in South Florida, serving more than 300 active patients,” said Dr. De La Zerda. “We take a comprehensive approach to delivering personalized care, including pulmonary and cardiology specialists, physical therapists and other clinicians. We have many ongoing studies and clinical trials underway, and offer support groups to patients, caregivers and families.”

Properly diagnosing the disease, as well as classifying the exact type of pulmonary hypertension, is critical for the best treatment options, added Dr. De La Zerda. “Our physicians and staff are skilled in determining which medical therapies will work best for which patients, and to adjust them as needed,” he added. “We provide a single resource for the care and treatment of patients who live with this challenging disease.” 

For more information, call the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at 305-243-9383 to speak to a coordinator or visit

Last Updated on Friday, 03 July 2020 07:33
Hospital Executive Charged In $1.4B Rural Hospital Billing Scheme Print E-mail
Written by Lauren Weber and Barbara Feder Ostrov, Kaiser Health News   
Tuesday, 30 June 2020 07:37

A Miami entrepreneur who led a rural hospital empire was charged in an indictment unsealed Monday in what federal prosecutors called a $1.4 billion fraudulent lab-billing scheme.

In the indictment, prosecutors said Jorge A. Perez, 60, and nine others exploited federal regulations that allow some rural hospitals to charge substantially higher rates for laboratory testing than other providers. The indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Florida, alleges Perez and the other defendants sought out struggling rural hospitals and then contracted with outside labs, in far-off cities and states, to process blood and urine tests for people who never set foot in the hospitals. Insurers were billed using the higher rates allowed for the rural hospitals.

Perez and the other defendants took in $400 million since 2015, according to the indictment. Many of the hospitals run or managed by Perez’s Empower companies have since failed as they ran out of money when insurers refused to pay for the suspect billing. Half of the nation’s rural hospital bankruptcies in 2019 were affiliated with his empire.

“This was allegedly a massive, multi-state scheme to use small, rural hospitals as a hub for millions of dollars in fraudulent billings of private insurers,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in a statement.

Attempts to reach Perez for comment Monday evening were unsuccessful. But last year when Perez spoke to KHN, he said he was losing sleep over the possibility he could go to jail after propping up struggling rural hospitals.

“I wanted to see if I could save these rural hospitals in America,” Perez said. “I’m that kind of person.”

Pam Green, a former night charge nurse at the now-shuttered Horton Community Hospital in Horton, Kansas (population under 1,700), said she hopes Perez and his colleagues receive long prison sentences.

“He just devastated so many people, not just in Kansas, but in Oklahoma and all the other places where he had hospitals,” said Green, 58, of nearby Muscotah, Kansas. “I went months and months without pay, without health insurance. He robbed the community.”

Green recalled that money was so tight under Perez’s management of her former hospital that the electricity was shut off at least twice and staffers had to bring in their own supplies. She said she is owed about $12,000 in back pay, as well as money for uncovered dental expenses and a workplace injury that would have been covered had employees’ insurance or workers’ compensation premiums been paid.

A KHN investigation published in August 2019 detailed the rise and fall of Perez’s rural hospitals. At the height of his operation, Perez and his Miami-based management company, EmpowerHMS, helped oversee a rural empire encompassing 18 hospitals across eight states. Perez owned or co-owned 11 of those hospitals and was CEO of the companies that provided their management and billing services.

Perez styled himself a savior of rural hospitals, swooping into small towns with promises to save their struggling facilities using his “secret sauce” of financial ventures. Multiple employees told KHN they had no idea what happened to the money their hospitals earned after Perez and his associates took control, since the facilities seemed perpetually starved for cash.

Over the past two years, amid mounting legal challenges and concerns about the lab-billing operation, insurers cut off funding and his empire crumbled. Overall, 12 of the hospitals have entered bankruptcy and eight have closed. The staggering collapse left hundreds of employees without jobs and small towns across the Midwest and South without lifesaving medical care.

The four rural hospitals named in the indictment are Campbellton-Graceville Hospital in Graceville, Florida; Regional General Hospital of Williston, Florida; Chestatee Regional Hospital in Dahlonega, Georgia; and Putnam County Memorial Hospital in Unionville, Missouri.

The indictment marks the third major case federal prosecutors have filed alleging billing fraud at Perez-affiliated hospitals. In October, David Byrns pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud involving a Missouri hospital he managed with Perez. A Missouri Auditor General report previously found that the 15-bed hospital, Putnam County Memorial in Unionville, had received about $90 million in questionable insurance payments in less than a year.

In July 2019, Kyle Marcotte, owner of a Jacksonville Beach, Florida, addiction treatment center, pleaded guilty for his part in a $57 million lab-billing scheme involving two Perez-affiliated hospitals, Campbellton-Graceville and Regional General Hospital. Marcotte admitted cooperating with unnamed hospital managers to provide urine samples from his patients for lab testing that was billed through the rural hospitals and, in exchange, getting a cut of the proceeds.

Perez, on his own and through Empower-affiliated companies, in 2016 and 2017 purchased South Florida properties that totaled more than $3.7 million, including three condos on Key Largo, according to property records. He told KHN last year that the Florida properties were bought with earnings from unrelated software companies but declined to give details. He and his brother Ricardo Perez, if convicted, must forfeit over $46 million, according to the indictment, as well as two Key Largo condos and other properties.

Another defendant, Aaron Durall, if convicted, could lose $184.4 million and a six-bedroom, 6,500-square-foot home in the affluent Parkland district north of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Perez-affiliated hospitals also face ongoing lawsuits in Missouri and other states filed by dozens of insurers asking for hundreds of millions in restitution for allegedly fraudulent billings. In those court documents, Perez repeatedly has denied wrongdoing. He told KHN last year that his lab-billing setup was “done according to Medicare and state guidelines.”

For former employees of EmpowerHMS and members of the affected communities, the indictment represents vindication. As the company foundered, hundreds of employees worked without pay in vain efforts to keep their hospitals afloat. They would discover later that, along with the missing paychecks, their insurance premiums had not been paid and their medical policies had been discontinued. In the June 2019 interview, Perez acknowledged that, as finances withered, he stopped paying employee payroll taxes.

“It’s nice to think he might be held accountable,” said Melva Price Lilley, a former X-ray technician at Washington County Hospital in Plymouth, North Carolina, which has reopened with new owners under a new name. “At least there’s a chance that he might have to suffer some consequences. That gives me some hope.”

Lilley, 56, said she and other employees could not retrieve their retirement savings from the bankrupt hospital until about three weeks ago. She has been trying to pay off about $68,000 in medical bills from a back surgery she needed for a workplace injury that wasn’t covered by workers’ compensation insurance premiums that went unpaid for hospital employees. She remains unable to work full time.

I-70 Community Hospital, an Empower facility in Sweet Springs, Missouri, has remained closed since February 2019. Tara Brewer, head of the Sweet Springs Chamber of Commerce and the local health department, said she was almost shocked to hear that Perez had gotten indicted after months of wondering if anything would happen.

While she hopes these charges bring closure to her community, she said, the charges do little to fix the closed hospital doors for a county that has had one of the highest per capita rates of coronavirus cases in Missouri.

“What he did to us will linger on for a long time,” Brewer said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 June 2020 08:12
The Heart Program at Nicklaus Children's Hospital Welcomes Congenital Heart Surgeon Dr. Robert Hanfland Print E-mail
Written by   
Thursday, 18 June 2020 13:56

MIAMI—Dr. Robert Hanfland, congenital heart surgeon, has joined The Heart Program at Nicklaus Children's Hospital. He will collaborate with the renowned Dr. Redmond Burke, Director of Cardiovascular Surgery, and a leading-edge team of cardiologists to provide care for children of the region and beyond.

Dr. Hanfland is board certified in general surgery and thoracic surgery. He is a member of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and an associate member of Women in Thoracic Surgery. Dr. Hanfland has been part of national committees for the Congenital Heart Surgeons Society, as well as the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

"We are delighted to welcome Dr. Hanfland to The Heart Program. He shares our passion to provide the highest quality care to the patients we serve," said Dr. Anthony Rossi, Director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Hanfland earned his medical degree from Southern Illinois University in Springfield and completed a residency in general surgery at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics in Iowa City. He then pursued a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and an additional fellowship in congenital heart surgery at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver. His clinical interests include ethics in medicine, pediatric cardiology, congenital heart surgery, hypoplastic left heart syndrome and other complicated pediatric heart anomalies.

Nicklaus Children’s Heart Program is a world leader in congenital heart disorders and has been ranked among the nation’s best for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report. The program’s outcomes for children with heart defects are among the best in the world. Offerings include the most innovative, least-invasive approaches to the treatment of congenital heart disease, including many first-in-the-world procedures that were pioneered right here in Miami by the program’s internationally recognized cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons.
To learn more about Dr. Hanfland, please visit

About Nicklaus Children's Hospital

Founded in 1950 by Variety Clubs International, Nicklaus Children's Hospital is South Florida's only licensed specialty hospital exclusively for children, with nearly 800 attending physicians and more than 475 pediatric subspecialists. The 309-bed hospital, known as Miami Children's Hospital from 1983 through 2014, is renowned for excellence in all aspects of pediatric medicine with many specialty programs routinely ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report since 2008. The hospital is also home to the largest pediatric teaching program in the southeastern United States and has been designated an American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet facility, the nursing profession's most prestigious institutional honor. For more information, please visit

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2020 14:03
Telemedicine Industry Prepares for a Post COVID-19 World Print E-mail
Written by Jeffrey Herschler   
Thursday, 11 June 2020 09:23

One of the big stories emergent from the current COVID-19 crisis is the rapid growth of telemedicine. Hindered in the past by regulations as well as custom, telemedicine has, until recently, only occupied a small niche in the healthcare industry. Commercial and government payers feared rampant fraud while healthcare providers and patients enjoyed the status quo. The current pandemic changed all that very quickly. Providers needed to conserve personal protective equipment and patients were justifiably fearful of visiting medical practices/facilities and either catching or spreading the illness. Meanwhile, the government loosened regulations governing telemedicine and payers beefed up reimbursements. According to the McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer Survey dated April 27, 2020, consumer adoption has skyrocketed, from 11 percent of U.S. consumers using telehealth in 2019 to 46 percent of consumers now using telehealth to replace cancelled healthcare visits.

“Providers going forward will incorporate telehealth into their delivery model; patients will demand it,” predicts a Memorial Health System executive. “Technology will expand rapidly. Regulations will come back; but now that telemedicine has been so broadly implemented, the government won’t be able to stop it,” he added.

“The original telehealth model was an add-on to brick and mortar care,” states a Baptist Health South Florida affiliated MD. “Now the call to action is to establish a new type of care for patients.”

And it’s apparent that many will join in the effort to heed that call. A recent report published by McKinsey and Company predicts that accelerated growth could vault the U.S. telehealth business to $250 billion. So, clearly this is a compelling business opportunity but what about the consumer?

A well-deserved complaint about U.S. healthcare is the poor value. It’s well documented that the U.S. spends the most per capita of any developed nation with middling outcomes. Because of its inherent efficiency - delivery of virtual medical encounters is cheaper than face-to-face encounters - telemedicine has the potential to alter the value proposition for the American healthcare consumer.

Further, both the patient experience and positive outcomes could be boosted by wider adoption of the telemedicine model.

“There is propensity to be more vulnerable when visiting doctors’ offices or medical facilities – it’s very demanding on your time and stressful,” according to Mario Espino, CEO of and CCMS-ACO, a primary care group virtual practice based in North Miami Beach. “Obviously, there are conditions that should be treated as telemedicine and those that should not," he adds. "Regardless, those patients that are frail and immunocompromised should use telemedicine to the extent that it is the right care environment. What you can’t quantify is: How many patients become sick because they went to the doctor’s office, emergency room or urgent care?”

However, there continues to be several potential roadblocks to successful, ongoing and widespread use of telehealth services.

Fraud and abuse by unethical providers and digital security issues remain top concerns. And for good reason. Telemedicine fraud can become massive because phone rooms operating anywhere in the world can target thousands of patients and Medicare may have difficulty differentiating improper bills from those submitted by a legitimate telehealth operation, according to Kaiser Health News reporter Fred Schulte in a recent article entitled Coronavirus Fuels Explosive Growth In Telehealth - And Concern About Fraud. Meanwhile, the increased utilization combined with security vulnerabilities will lead to more and more hackers targeting remote monitoring and medical devices. This could be dangerous - even lethal - for users, according to Natali Tshuva, CEO of IoT security company Sternum,

Patient safety can be impacted in other ways. While obviously some patients benefit from a virtual encounter, others would be better served by a face-to-face encounter.

“With telehealth having it’s moment and clinicians, healthcare business professionals and even payers all jumping on the bandwagon, it’s fair to wonder whether some patients might suffer a bad outcome because they weren’t seen in person,” states Rich Lucibella, President of Accountable Care Options of Florida, based in Boynton Beach. Mr. Lucibella points out that the medical standard of care – a critical component in med mal cases – is not yet clearly defined in the relatively new telehealth environment. “When must be seen in person?” queries Lucibella. “The guidelines don’t exist at the moment but something needs to be developed to ensure the telehealth boom doesn’t yield negative unintended consequences including patient suffering and death. And of course, litigation.”

And it’s no secret that the COVID crisis has led the nation into an economic downturn. “Economic desperation drives many lawsuits,” states Matt Gracey a medical malpractice insurance specialist based in Delray Beach, FL.

Fraud and abuse, digital security vulnerabilities, patient safety and professional liability all present profound challenges. But that $250 billion figure is sure to attract the best and the brightest to meet those challenges.

Despite the risks, most providers are extremely optimistic about the future of telemedicine. “It’s going to be part of the mainstream,” according to a veteran South Florida based health system executive. “The quality of a telehealth visit will equal or exceed a traditional visit.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 June 2020 10:10
Safe Space Scan Technologies Launches Affordable Non-Contact Automatic Body Infrared Temperature Detection Scanner Print E-mail
Written by FHInews   
Friday, 05 June 2020 08:36

DELRAY BEACH, FLA – Safe Space Scan Technologies announced the launch and availability of its new infrared temperature scanning technology for use in complying with CDC standards for the reopening of U.S. businesses, health and senior care facilities and government buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

The 3S07T free-standing scanner features advanced proprietary, German-engineered technology, is FCC certified and can scan for elevated temperature and mask compliance in less than one second. Those without masks and/or with an elevated body temperature will receive an audio alert, while notifying the business or building management of the occurrence. It is easy to set up and can be used on a pedestal, counter or be permanently bolted.

Typical locations include the entrance to a building or retail location, at a security desk, elevator and more. Basically, wherever employees and the public can gain access is where this device can be placed.

“We wanted to offer an affordable solution that helps businesses comply with CDC’s COVID-19 guidance while keeping employees, tenants, patients and visitors safe,” said Safe Space Scan Technologies President Steven Shulman. “Similar systems in use at air and seaports cost $15,000 to $25,000, a cost that is out of reach to many with an immediate need.”

The Safe Space Scanner sells for $1,499 and offers a broad selection of available stands and pedestals.  It is easy to set up, simply plug in the machine and it is ready to go in minutes.

“By using our non-contact automatic body temperature detection technology, everyone will feel more secure, a must for reopening America and maintaining a safe and healthy environment,” added Shulman.

The company is targeting markets such as office, retail, restaurant, hotel, health and senior care, multi-family, manufacturing, schools, theme parks and government facilities.

How the Safe Spaceware works:

About Safe Space Scan Technologies
Delray Beach, Florida-based Safe Space Scan Technologies is a developer and manufacturer of electronic safety devices used in markets including office, retail, restaurant, technology, multi-family, health, senior care and government facilities. The company’s Safe Space Scanner is being launched at a time when HR directors and facilities managers are concerned about keeping their environments safe during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis and the gradual reopening of the U.S. economy.  For more information visit or call 1-888-819-SCAN(7226).

Last Updated on Friday, 05 June 2020 09:50
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