QUESTION: We are part of a five-hospital system. Many of our physicians practice at multiple hospitals in our system. We’ve had a couple of occasions lately where one hospital addressed a problem applicant or a problem physician, but the physician just moved to another hospital in our system. We are separate hospitals and separate medical staffs. We have an information sharing agreement and that helps, but we’re not sure it’s enough. Can you help?
ANSWER: You’re off to a good start with an information sharing agreement. That should allow you to share confidential peer review information between and among your sister organizations. There is also language you can add to your bylaws or credentials policy (bylaws documents) that can help. For instance, we recommend threshold eligibility criteria that would render someone ineligible if he or she had staff appointment or privileges “denied, revoked, or terminated” for reasons related to clinical competence or professional conduct at any hospital or health care facility, or had resigned appointment during an investigation, or had an application for appointment not processed due to an omission or misrepresentation. These threshold eligibility criteria apply not only at appointment and reappointment but during the term of appointment and your bylaws documents should make it clear that failure to satisfy these criteria during appointment will result in an automatic relinquishment.
It is also helpful to have language in your bylaws documents that makes it clear that certain actions, such as a performance improvement plan, automatic relinquishment, or professional review action, when taken at one hospital in the system will be automatically effective at all of the other hospitals in the system. The bylaws language should allow for a waiver by the Board, upon the recommendation of the appropriate Medical Executive Committee, when it would not be necessary or appropriate for the action to be effective at any given hospital. This language gives you some wiggle room and some discretion, but it also helps ensure that you are not caught up in redoing peer review efforts, including investigations and hearings, at multiple hospitals in the system. Fortunately, there is helpful language in the National Practitioner Data Bank Guidebook which makes it clear that administrative actions taken by hospitals in a system based exclusively on the action taken at a sister hospital should not be reported to the NPDB.