Question of the Week

A few weeks ago, a nephrologist resigned from our medical staff to take an opportunity out of state.  It’s been brought to my attention that one of the nephrologist’s cases had been flagged for review by our peer review specialist.  The specialist sent me an email asking whether we should continue with our standard peer review process.  Do you have any guidance?

This situation is more common than you would think.  Because the nephrologist is no longer a member of your medical staff, we would advise that specific peer review of that physician’s medical services should be discontinued.  The purpose of peer reviewing that physician is to ensure and improve quality; this purpose can no longer be effectuated if the physician has left the medical staff.  Among other things, many of the tools that could be used to improve care would no longer be available (such as having the physician complete additional training and then monitoring a few of the physician’s cases at the hospital).  Also, a malpractice attorney may argue that the peer review privilege doesn’t apply to reviews conducted after a physician has left the medical staff.  Finally, continuing peer review of a physician no longer on your medical staff may give an eager plaintiff’s attorney something to squawk about (e.g., allegations that the purpose of the review is to harm the physician).