DENVER
05/10/2011 01:04 pm ET Updated Jul 10, 2011

Heart Check America Shuts Down Amidst Allegations of Improper Body Scans

DENVER (Reuters) - A medical imaging company has shuttered its doors in Colorado after regulators ordered it to stop performing X-rays and other scans without doctors' referrals and supervising physicians, a state official said.

Heart Check America, which has clinics in several states, has abandoned its Denver office, Warren Smith, manager of the Colorado Department of Health's hazardous material division, said on Monday.

Last month, the agency notified Heart Check that its advertised "virtual physical" screens that included heart, lung, bone density and other scans were done without doctors' orders, and were not read by a radiologist and communicated to patients in a timely manner, all violations of state regulations.

"We do not feel a whole body scan is an appropriate screening tool for an asymptomatic patient," the agency said in a letter to Heart Check ordering them to cease the practice.

If a patient undergoes a medical procedure that entails radiation exposure, the letter said, it "must have some benefit for the patient."

On several consumer web sites, people have complained that the company used high-pressure sales tactics to persuade people to pay thousands of dollars for 10-year packages of the scans, but then never received a diagnosis or any follow-up help.

Smith said the supervising physician listed on company paperwork was not licensed to practice medicine in Colorado.

After the clinic failed to respond to the letter, Smith said, regulators went to the office last week and found the business shuttered.

A phone number for Heart Check's Denver office was disconnected, and a recorded message on the company's toll-free number said it was undergoing a "reorganization of the company itself."

NEVADA ALSO INVESTIGATING

Heart Check came under scrutiny after the Colorado Department of Health contacted walk-in screening clinics to say that updated compliance regulations were going into effect.

Nevada authorities notified Colorado health officials that Heart Check was under investigation in that state for similar violations, and that moved them to the top of the compliance list, Smith said.

Smith said his department has shared its conclusions with the Colorado Board of Medical Examiners and the Colorado Attorney General's Office to see if Heart Check has violated any other regulations or laws.

Mike Saccone, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said the agency's consumer protection division is taking "a serious look" at the company's practices.

Heart Check's owner, David W. Haddad, was sued by the Indiana Attorney General's Office in 2007 over fraudulently selling time-share condominiums, Molly Butters, spokeswoman for the agency, told Reuters.

Haddad was ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution to victims of the scam, and the loan company that provided financing canceled its loans with consumers who bought the time-share packages, Butters said.

In addition to Colorado and Nevada, Heart Check America lists facilities in California, Illinois, New York, South Carolina and Washington, D.C.

Colorado regulators are sharing results of their probe with those jurisdictions.

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