QUESTION: Can credentials and peer review information about a practitioner be shared with a sister hospital if the sister hospital has the same Board, but each has its own separate Medical Staff? Should they?
ANSWER: Hospitals that are affiliated under the same Board, in a system, can exchange information, although we recommend several steps to maximize legal protection. We generally recommend including a provision in each hospital’s Medical Staff bylaws or credentials policy, as well as a statement on the application form, that the applicant understands that information will be shared among entities in the system and that the sharing of this information is not intended to be a waiver of the state peer review protection statute. It is also a good idea to have a formal information?sharing agreement among the hospitals which clearly defines what information will be shared, when it will be shared, and to whom it will be forwarded.
As for whether the hospitals should share information, the answer is yes. Two hospitals under one Board would be considered one corporate entity. Each individual hospital (or clinic, health plan, ambulatory surgery center and any other related facility) is part of that one entity. Important to the Medical Staff leaders responsible for helping to maintain high standards of care through careful and thorough credentialing of physicians is the fact that because it is one entity, credentialers may be “deemed” to be making recommendations as to whether a specific practitioner is qualified and competent based on the collective knowledge of the entity as a whole, rather than the knowledge contained within an individual hospital. The standard in the law — when it comes to doling out liability — is that the credentialers “knew or should have known” the relevant information that came from the sister facility.