After years of litigation and appeals, the Arkansas Supreme Court has finally decided in Baptist Health v. Murphy that the economic credentialing policy tortiously interfered with the physician/patient relationships of a group of its staff cardiologists and enjoined Baptist Health from using its economic credentialing policy to deny staff appointments and clinical privileges to 12 physicians who are parties in Little Rock Cardiology Clinic.

The board of trustees of Baptist Health adopted an “economic conflict of interest policy,” which mandated the denial of initial and renewed professional staff appointments or clinical privileges at any Baptist hospital to any practitioner who, directly or indirectly, acquires or holds an ownership interest in a competing hospital. When the policy was adopted in 2003, the cardiologist immediately sought injunctive relief, along with alleging violations of various state and federal antitrust and fraud and abuse statutes, not all of which were dismissed at various stages of these proceedings.

The significance of the Baptist Health case, even though it is based upon Arkansas law and has no precedential value in other jurisdictions, is that at least one court has decided that economic credentialing policies interfere with physician/patient relationships and has banned their use.