Cardiac pacemaker manufacturer Guidant Corp. has brought separate legal actions against two Denver-based consulting firms for allegedly misusing proprietary pricing information in violation of confidentiality agreements.
The lawsuits against Aspen Healthcare Metrics, a wholly owned subsidiary of MedAssets, a national group purchasing organization, and Byrne Healthcare, a small, privately owned cardiovascular consulting firm, could have implications for healthcare companies, such as GPOs, that pool hospital resources to achieve better pricing, Byrne officials said.
The lawsuits were filed earlier this month in district court in Ramsey County, Minn. Two days later, in a letter that went out to an unspecified number of "business partners," Guidant officials wrote that the litigation "should in no way be construed as targeted at our hospital and hospital system customers."
Officials at Byrne argue, however, that if Guidant were to succeed in its court case, it could dismantle any collaborative efforts to reverse negative margins in cardiovascular services. The company, which has 25 active hospital clients, works with hospitals to contain costs associated with cardiovascular services. "We feel this is an attempt to shut us down," Byrne Vice President Greg Gossett said. "If a case like this is won, I think hospitals would have to deal with vendors in isolation."
Aspen, which describes itself on its Web site as a "national clinical service line consulting and benchmark data provider with a unique focus on operating margin enhancement," boasts hundreds of hospital clients and claims expertise in cardiology, orthopedic surgery, spine and neurosurgery and general, gynecological and ambulatory surgery. Aspen officials said they will fight the "baseless" charges.
In the lawsuit against Byrne, Guidant charged that after contracting with Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph, Mich., for pacemakers manufactured by its affiliate, Cardiac Pacemakers, Lakeland breached a contract that included confidential pricing at the inducement of Byrne. After Lakeland provided Byrne with the confidential pricing information, Byrne included the information in its national price bench-marking database, Guidant charged in the lawsuit. Lakeland was not named as a defendant.