Gil Mileikowsky M.D.
One of 20 People Who Make Healthcare Better
from HealthLeaders Media
Healthcare faces a long list of daunting challenges, from spiraling costs to drug-resistant infections to millions of uninsured patients. Who is showing the courage, the creativity, the perseverance to meet those challenges? Who is truly making a difference in today's complex healthcare world? In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we offer profiles of individuals who are doing just that. Some are longtime fixtures in the industry; others would clearly be considered "outsiders." Some of them are revered figures; others would not win many popularity contests. But all of them are playing a crucial role in finding ways both large and small to make the industry better.
Gil Mileikowsky MD, whistleblower
Whistleblowers often pay a high price for exposing flaws in the healthcare system. Like a lot of physicians who have been in his situation, Gil Mileikowsky, MD, essentially lost his livelihood. It started in 2000 when he was approached by a lawyer representing a patient whose Fallopian tubes were removed without consent. He hadn't heard of the case, even though it happened in his own department, and he began to suspect that other patient safety incidents weren't being reviewed through the proper channels. He agreed to serve as an expert witness against Tarzana Regional Medical Center, a joint venture of HCA and Tenet HealthSystem, and four days later the hospital CEO informed him that he would be escorted by security while on hospital grounds. A few months later he was suspended.
That was just the beginning of a long legal battle that is still ongoing. The American Medical Association, the California Medical Association, and other physician and consumer organizations-including a partnership between doctors and trial lawyers spearheaded by attorney Alan Dershowitz-filed amicus briefs on Mileikowsky's behalf. For many of his supporters, the central issue is peer review and whether hospitals should have authority to remove a physician without due process. His case recently led to a new California law that extends whistleblower protection to all physicians, and he has campaigned for similar protections on the federal level.
But in Mileikowsky's eyes, he is locked in a much grander struggle to improve the quality of the healthcare system. He founded the Alliance for Patient Safety to document his case and push for safety reforms, and he has developed what he believes is a solution to poor quality control-a "black box" for physicians. Hospital errors should be reviewed in double-blind studies by randomly selected specialists to remove bias or potential conflict of interest, he argues. Although he never intended to become a whistleblower, he says his goal is now to expose flaws in the entire system, not just one hospital.
Whistleblowers like Mileikowsky play an important role in an industry that is often unsuccessful at policing itself; they now initiate nine out of 10 fraud cases for the Department of Justice. Although in some situations they stand to receive up to 25% of any amount recovered, that wasn't the case for Mileikowsky. "I didn't wake up one day and say, 'I want to become a whistleblower,'" he says. "A whistleblower is just someone who tries to sound the alarm about a wrong situation." - Elyas Bakhtiari
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