Dr. Bruce Murphy Leaves the Cath Lab to Become CEO of Arkansas Heart Hospital.

by George Waldon  on Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 12:00 am  

Dr. Bruce Murphy gets to ramp up his love for patient interaction with his new role as CEO of Little Rock's Arkansas Heart Hospital. (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

"One, walk to a nurse's station and see if any of the patients are mine and go visit them. That gives me a lot of joy.

"Two, I'm a cath lab rat. Now, I go to the cath lab and see what the boys are up to. Now I have the best of both worlds. I'm a lucky guy."


Cardiac Wars

Murphy has remained among the most visible and outspoken Arkansas Heart Hospital advocates during its tumultuously competitive first decade of operation.

Murphy and the other Little Rock Cardiology Clinic doctors battled the state's largest health care insurer, Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield. Less than two years after the Arkansas Heart Hospital opened, Blue Cross expelled the state's largest cardiology clinic from two of its managed-care networks: Arkansas FirstSource, a preferred provider organization, and Health Advantage, a health maintenance organization. The PPO and HMO are owned jointly by Arkansas Blue Cross and hospital and clinic operator Baptist Health.

"The goal was to put us out of business," Murphy said. "Blue Cross and Baptist have a unique relationship. It's the sweetest word I can use.

"Blue Cross deselected our cardiology group, costing us patients and leaving us largely with Medicare and Medicaid patients. Those were not fat years.

"To overcome that, we developed a plan to go out into the state to get patients in areas that weren't served."

The outreach program helped Little Rock Cardiology Clinic and Arkansas Heart Hospital survive until the Patient Protection Act of 1995, popularly known as "any willing provider," was finally enforced in 2005. The legislation forced insurers to work with all health care providers willing to accept their fee reimbursement schedule.

"Then, there was the economic credentialing dispute," Murphy said. "You know you're in court too much when the Pulaski County Courthouse deputy in charge of security knows you by name."

The Arkansas Heart Hospital doctors/investors also weathered a long-running legal battle to maintain hospital privileges at Baptist Health hospitals.



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