Dr. Ryan Cole removed from one of Idaho’s largest health care networks

The group includes Idaho’s largest health system, as well as independent clinics and medical providers.

By: - December 8, 2021 4:29 am
Photo of Dr. Ryan Cole speaking at a conference in early October

Dr. Ryan Cole speaks at the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons conference in Pittsburgh early October. (Screengrab from video)

A controversial Idaho pathologist and his laboratory are no longer in a group of about 2,800 health care providers, responsible for the care — and lab tests — of about 160,000 Idahoans.

It’s unclear whether the network, St. Luke’s Health Partners, chose to eject Dr. Ryan Cole and his laboratory, Cole Diagnostics, or if Cole himself chose to leave the network.

Cole and his wife, who acts as his media liaison, did not respond to email or text messages Tuesday.

Either way, the removal means Cole’s laboratory is no longer “in network” for Idaho patients with certain health insurance plans. Select Health, a Utah-based insurer, is linked to St. Luke’s Health Partners, as are other Idaho insurers’ “narrow network” plans.

Select Health plans that are sold on Idaho’s health insurance exchange, alone, cover more than 45,000 Idahoans, according to the company’s regulatory filings.

“St. Luke’s can confirm that Cole Diagnostics (and its sole provider, Dr. Cole) is no longer participating in the St. Luke’s Health Partners or BrightPath networks,” Christine Myron, St. Luke’s Health System’s public relations manager for the Treasure Valley, wrote in an email to the Idaho Capital Sun. (St. Luke’s Health Partners is known in some regions of Idaho as BrightPath.)

“However, Idaho peer review law prevents St. Luke’s from disclosing any further detail in response to your questions,” Myron wrote.

She directed the Sun to the Idaho peer review confidentiality statutes, starting with Section 1392 of Chapter 39 of the Idaho Code.

County commissioners in August chose Cole to serve as the only physician on the board of Central District Health, Idaho’s largest regional health department.

Before and since his appointment, Cole has spoken out against the COVID-19 vaccine, making claims of health risks that are not backed up by scientific research. He also has criticized health care providers who care for COVID-19 patients in hospitals and has promoted and prescribed unproven drugs for COVID-19.

The Idaho Medical Association in October filed a complaint against Cole with the Idaho Board of Medicine, which licenses Idaho doctors. The association of Cole’s peers claimed that, as a clinical and anatomic pathologist, his treatment of patients with COVID-19 did not meet the standard of care for an Idaho doctor.

Cole also is the subject of an investigation by the Washington Medical Commission. The commission received at least five complaints this year about Cole promulgating misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines.

A summary of the complaints, provided to the Sun in response to a public record request:

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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton was a senior investigative reporter with the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover included health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.