Three chiropractors in northeast Kansas were sanctioned last week by the state’s medical board for selling laser lipolysis treatments, which they advertised as painless, on the daily deal website Groupon.
The Kansas Board of Healing Arts fined Kenneth Downing of Westwood, Ryan Nadolski of Mission and Amelia Rodrock of Lawrence $1,500 each. It also ordered them to take courses in record keeping and ethical advertising and pass an ethics exam.
The board’s orders said that the arrangement the three made with each other, Groupon and a company that owned the website www.beautifulyouexpress.com amounted to “fee-splitting,” a practice of referring patients for treatment in exchange for a portion of the proceeds.
Fee-splitting is prohibited under the state’s medical licensing regulations.
The board found that the three also violated state regulations that govern medical advertising by claiming the treatments were painless and by identifying themselves as doctors but not specifying that they were doctors of chiropractic.
The board also said the three did not provide all the medical records its investigators requested.
Nadolski, who practices at HealthSource KC, said the incident happened years ago when he was “a young associate right out of school” and was working in a practice that operated the YOLO Curve laser system. He said he helped arrange for Rodrock, who was also fresh out of school, to get a laser at her new practice in exchange for a portion of her proceeds.
“I accept responsibility for whatever the board said I did wrong, but I’m a great doctor and I had nothing to do with any advertising or any treatment of any patients with this machine,” Nadolski said. “I was a liaison. I introduced one person. I worked in a clinic where the laser did good things.”
Nadolski said “there was no mal intent here” and no patients were harmed.
An American Society for Dermatologic Surgery review of medical studies of laser lipolysis concluded that it’s safe and effective but there wasn’t enough data to compare it to conventional liposuction.
Rodrock didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Downing, who practices at Westwood Chiropractic, said the board’s punishment was too harsh, but he didn’t want to spend any more money on legal fees fighting it.
He said any fee-splitting that occurred was not intentional on his part.
“I think it was just a lack of education on how fees can be obtained,” Downing said.
It was the second time Downing has been sanctioned by the medical board for his advertising techniques. In 2013, the board fined him $2,000 for statements posted on his website and in email newsletters, including claims that he was “the number one chiropractor in the Westwood area” and that he could eliminate carpal tunnel syndrome and fibromyalgia pain without medication.
Travis Oller, the executive director of the Kansas Chiropractic Association, said the group discourages members from selling services on Groupon because of the potential to run afoul of the medical board’s fee-splitting rules.
Groupon offers “deal-of-the-day” emails to subscribers in exchange for commissions from the vendors offering the deals.
Kathleen Selzler Lippert, the executive director of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, said Groupon can be used to sell medical services, but only if the deals are structured so the commissions don’t depend on the amount of services or the type of services provided.
“We’ve seen some Groupon arrangements that are absolutely appropriate,” Lippert said, “and some that are not appropriate.”