(From left) Patrick J. Halpin, MD, BOC representative from Washington state; David C. Markel, MD, chair of the BOC State Orthopaedic Societies Committee; John W. Adkison, MD, president of the Washington State Orthopaedic Society; AAOS President John J. Callaghan, MD; BOC Chair Richard J. Barry, MD.


Published 6/1/2010
Maureen Leahy

WSOA earns Achievement Award

Recognized for efforts to preserve physician-owned physical therapy

The Washington State Orthopaedic Association (WSOA) was honored with the 2010 State Orthopaedic Achievement Award for its role in funding litigation to preserve physician-owned physical therapy services (POPTS). John W. Adkison, MD, president of the WSOA, accepted the award, which was presented during the National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

The annual award recognizes the efforts of state societies in helping to achieve political change, providing opportunities for continuing medical education, and mentoring. It not only recognizes the society’s creativity in its approach to issues faced by its membership, but also honors the overall achievements of the society. The 2010 State Orthopaedic Achievement Award winner was selected by a subcommittee of the BOC State Orthopaedic Societies Committee.

The WSOA was honored for its work in creating the Benton Franklin Orthopedic Associates (BFOA) Defense Fund to finance efforts to preserve physician ownership of physical therapy services in Washington State. The lawsuit against BFOA alleged that the state’s corporate practice of medicine doctrine and Professional Service Corporation Act barred physicians from employing physical therapists. The plaintiff also claimed that Washington’s anti-rebate statute bars physicians from referring patients for physical therapy furnished within a medical practice.

Over a 3-year period, the WSOA solicited litigation funds on behalf of BFOA from WSOA members, orthopaedic groups throughout the state and nation, other specialty societies, and the AAOS. The WSOA raised 90 percent of the necessary funds and coordinated the recruitment of nationally prominent legal counsel to represent BFOA. In March 2010, the Supreme Court of Washington voted unanimously in favor of BFOA, thereby upholding the rights of medical practices in the state to employ physical therapists and to refer patients to those physical therapists. With respect to the plaintiff’s claim under the anti-rebate statue, the Court ruled that physician supervision of physical therapists is not required to comply with the anti-rebate statute.

The Washington state decision was especially meaningful in the wake of a similar legal battle in South Carolina that had a less favorable result. In 2006, a majority of the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal for orthopaedic surgeons in the state to employ physical therapists, a decision that put an end to such employment relationships in that state.

Proud of the WSOA’s involvement in BFOA’s victory, Dr. Adkison said, “We view this hard-fought court victory as fundamental in the preservation of the practice of orthopaedic surgery.”

Maureen Leahy is assistant managing editor for AAOS Now. She can be reached at leahy@aaos.org