Austin neurosurgeon punished over surgical monitoring referrals


Highlights

Dr. Thomas Loftus must pay a $2,500 fine, take classes and pass an ethics test.

CEO of a neuromonitoring service accused of illegal deals with Loftus says complaints are a smear campaign.

An Austin neurosurgeon has been punished by the Texas Medical Board for failing to disclose his ownership in a neurodiagnostics company that he referred his patients to, in some cases leading to expensive out-of-network costs for them.

A mediated order that Dr. Thomas Stuart Loftus accepted lets him continue to practice, provided he apprises patients of his financial interest in Capitol Neurodiagnostics, pays a $2,500 fine, takes classes and passes an ethics test.

Loftus, 45, appears to be the first Texas neurosurgeon to be sanctioned by the board for such a business arrangement. Insurance companies and others have raised concerns about the practice since 2015, with some in the medical industry questioning its legality and others questioning whether it is ethical.

Loftus’ attorney said the doctor has done nothing wrong and does not believe he was legally obligated to disclose his Capitol Neurodiagnostics ownership to his patients.

“The allegations were taken very seriously by Dr. Loftus and were successfully defended,” his attorney, Terri Harris, said in a statement. “It has been a long stressful couple of years for Dr. Loftus and his family having his professional practice and reputation tarnished by meritless allegations being published about him. He hopes to put this behind him and return to some degree of normalcy and focus on his patients and their care.”

The American-Statesman reported in June that the medical board filed a complaint accusing Loftus of misleading patients and violating a federal anti-kickback law by referring them to a company in which he had a financial interest for the surgical monitoring services. The board reviewed six patients’ records, including those of a 72-year-old woman who was billed $80,000 in neuromonitoring charges that weren’t covered by her insurance.

Neuromonitoring is most commonly used with brain and spine surgery patients and it aims to uphold a patients’ neuromuscular function during the procedure.

The most serious charges against Loftus were dropped, as he agreed to the mediated order rather than fight all the charges at a Sept. 8 hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings. The medical board approved the order on Oct. 20, and dismissed his case on Oct. 31.

A medical board spokesman declined comment.

Loftus, who operates Austin Neurosurgical Institute on Park Bend Drive in North Austin, did not admit or deny the findings, but did agree to his punishment.

Harris, the attorney, said “there is nothing extraordinary or unusual” about the board’s disciplinary measures.

She added that although there is no law that requires doctors to disclose their financial interests in neuromonitoring companies, Loftus had started doing so before resolving the medical board’s complaint.

Filed in May, the complaint accused Loftus of also having a financial interest in National Neuromonitoring Services, a San Antonio company that provides equipment for neuromonitoring. But Scott LaRoque, chief executive officer of National Neuromonitoring Services, said he is the sole owner and that Loftus has no stake in the company. He attributed allegations that he engaged in a kickback scheme with Loftus to a “smear campaign” by a rival.

“It is an outrageous abuse of the TMB to take advantage of their anonymous complaint system which is meant to protect the confidentiality of patients,” LaRoque said through a spokesman.



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