We’re updating our process for peer review of clinical concerns. We want it to be more effective and less feared by Medical Staff members. Any tips?
OUR ANSWER FROM HORTYSPRINGER ATTORNEY PHIL ZARONE:
Yes! Here are a few:
- Create a Multi-Specialty Committee. Create a multi-specialty committee that works with practitioners on a voluntary basis to address clinical concerns. If the multi-specialty committee believes there’s an opportunity for improvement with the care provided by a practitioner, the committee presents an improvement plan to the practitioner and asks the individual to voluntarily participate. If the practitioner disagrees with the need for the improvement plan, the matter would be referred to the Medical Executive Committee for its independent review under the Medical Staff Bylaws/Credentials Policy. This approach allows the multi-specialty committee to remain a supportive committee with no disciplinary authority, while the MEC is a second layer of review when needed.
- Obtain Specialty Expertise. Identify small committees or individuals (depending on state law) for each specialty that provide the specialty expertise that informs the decisions of the multi-specialty committee. In larger hospitals with more volume, these committees/individuals can be authorized to take certain performance improvement actions (such as sending educational letters or engaging in collegial counseling discussions) while more significant concerns are sent to the multi-specialty committee for its review.
- Get Input from the Practitioner. A process will be perceived as more fair and credible if the practitioner under review has been provided notice of any concerns and an opportunity to provide input about those issues. No performance improvement action should occur until the practitioner’s input has been obtained.
- Adopt Mechanisms to Identify “Lessons Learned” and “System/Process Issues.” Peer review should help everyone get better. Case review forms and committee minutes should specifically ask if a review identified a lesson that would be of value to others in the specialty, or a system/process issue that needs to be fixed. There should be mechanisms to ensure that such lessons learned or system/process issues are shared with the appropriate individuals or committees for follow-up action, and the multi-specialty committee should keep these items on its agenda until it receives word that they have been addressed.
- Stop Scoring. Rather than asking reviewers to assign a numerical value or category to a case, the reviewer should simply assess whether there was a concern with the care provided. If so, how could that concern be addressed? Scoring causes practitioners to be defensive and diverts energy away from what really matters in the review process (i.e., how to help a practitioner improve).
- Words Matter! The term “peer review” is viewed negatively by most practitioners. Using new terminology will help to emphasize that a new process has been created that is educational and not focused on restrictions of privileges. Consider creating a “Committee for Professional Enhancement” or “Performance Improvement Committee” rather than a more traditional “Peer Review Committee.” Similarly, refer to the process as the “professional practice evaluation” process rather than “peer review” process.