From 2009 until 2014, an internist served as a patient’s primary care physician.
In 2009, the internist referred the patient to Cardiologist A for a cardiology evaluation. The results of the 2009 cardiology evaluation revealed that the patient’s electrocardiogram and stress test were both abnormal. At this time Cardiologist A recommended that the internist increase the patient’s medication as needed in order to get the patient’s LDL cholesterol below seventy.
The patient was evaluated by Cardiologist A again in June 2010. The June 2010 cardiac evaluation revealed that the patient had shortness of breath on exertion at times, possibly related to hypertension and subclinical congestive heart failure.
On 7/17/2013, the patient underwent lab work, the results which showed that his glomerular filtration rate (“GFR”) was thirty-four. The internist stated the patient’s chronic kidney disease (“CKD”) as stage III/IV.
The patient’s next set of lab work was conducted on 11/18/2013, the results of which showed that his GFR was twenty-two. The internist wrote in a progress note that the patient’s CKD was stage III/IV.
The patient had lab work done again on 1/13/2014, the results of which showed that his GFR was twenty-six. In a progress noted created on 1/13/2014, the internist wrote that the patient’s CKD was now at stage IV.
Despite the dramatic decline in the patient’s GFR levels indicative of worsening CKD, the internist did not refer the patient to a nephrologist.
On 1/13/2014, the patient presented to the internist complaining of left arm pain, numbness radiating to both hands, and shortness of breath. The internist ordered an EKG, chest x-ray, and lab work. The internist’s assessment of the patient at this time was dyspnea on exertion, questionable coronary artery disease, questionable pulmonary issue, and questionable anxiety.
The internist had the patient return to the office on 1/14/2014 for an echocardiogram. After the echocardiogram, the internist referred the patient to Cardiologist B for a consult.
The patient could not obtain an appointment with Cardiologist B until 2/3/2014.
The internist ordered that a stress test be conducted prior to the patient’s visit to Cardiologist B, and advised that the patient bring the results of the stress test to his appointment with Cardiologist B. The stress test was performed on 1/23/2014, and the results were abnormal.
The Board judged the internist’s conduct to be below the minimum standard of competence given that the internist failed to adequately evaluate the patient’s symptoms and recognize the patient’s worsening coronary artery disease, development of congestive heart failure, and worsening of chronic kidney disease. The internist should have referred the patient to a nephrologist for further evaluation upon seeing a dramatic decline in the patient’s GFR levels. When the patient, with a known history of cardiac disease, presented with cardiac symptoms, the internist should have should have sent the patient to an emergency department for treatment.
The Board ordered that the internist pay a fine of $2,000 imposed against his license. The Board also ordered that the internist pay reimbursement costs of a minimum of $5,756.36 and not to exceed $7,756.36. The internist was ordered to complete five hours of continuing medical education in the treatment of patients with chronic kidney disease and five hours of continuing medical education in the treatment of patients with chronic heart disease.
Date: December 2017
Specialty: Internal Medicine
Medical Error: Referral failure to hospital or specialist
Significant Outcome: N/A
Case Rating: 2
Link to Original Case File: Download PDF
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