Piedmont Health Alliance, Hickory, N.C., and 10 physicians have settled a price-fixing investigation by the Federal Trade Commission through a consent agreement that bars the alliance and physicians from banding together to negotiate with payers. The agreement imposed no fines and does not contain an admission of wrongdoing by the physician-hospital organization or the physicians. Tenet Healthcare Corp.'s Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory was a founding member of Piedmont Health Alliance in 1994, but Tenet and Frye settled with the FTC without a fine or admission of wrongdoing in December 2003. Two not-for-profit hospitals that joined the alliance in 1996 were never charged in the case. In a news release, Sharon Alvis, chief executive officer of Piedmont Health Alliance, said, "We have been dealing with the FTC for more than two years, and it was important to put this issue behind us." Alvis said the alliance will focus on expanding its technology program to increase the use of electronic medical records in the offices of its roughly 450 physicians. -- by Vince Galloro
N.C. PHO, doctors settle FTC probe
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