QUESTION: An applicant answered “no” in response to a question on our application as to whether he ever resigned clinical privileges while under or in return for not conducting an investigation. There was a report in the NPDB from another hospital stating that he surrendered privileges while under investigation. We advised him that pursuant to our credentialing policy, processing of his application would stop. His lawyer has written a letter stating that he was filing suit against that hospital based on allegations that the investigation was initiated in retaliation for whistleblowing and that it is unfair to stop processing the application. Must we process the application?
ANSWER: No. When the physician signed the application, he agreed to be bound by your bylaws and credentialing policy. A signature on an application constitutes a representation that the information provided was accurate. Even in the absence of clear language in bylaws or a credentialing policy that a misstatement or omission is grounds to stop the processing, an application would be deemed incomplete. Due diligence would require extensive commitment of resources; it would be very difficult to assess the allegation (and essentially second-guess what that other hospital did). That’s why having such language that processing will stop is helpful. Allegations that a peer review process was based on retaliation for whistleblowing are becoming increasingly common. And, the proper way for the physician to have responded would have been “yes,” with an explanation.