As part of our peer review process, we want to develop a plan requiring a physician to obtain 15 hours of CME (to improve performance in a couple of identified areas). Our peer review committee has always forwarded these types of recommendations to the MEC and Board for approval prior to implementing them. I recently heard that this is no longer recommended. Can you explain why? Did something change about MEC and Board oversight of Medical Staff activities?
OUR ANSWER FROM HORTYSPRINGER ATTORNEY RACHEL REMALEY:
Medical Staffs have come a long way in the past 20 years. As the roles and responsibilities of Medical Staff leaders have multiplied, many Medical Staffs have decided to dedicate the MEC to matters of oversight and strategy, while delegating the detailed, day-to-day work of the Medical Staff to other committees. This is how the Credentials Committee first came into fashion. More recently, the Leadership Council and Multispecialty Peer Review Committee have begun to assume greater roles within the Medical Staff. This means not limiting the work of the committee to conducting clinical case reviews and reporting those results to the MEC. Most modern peer review committees are responsible for so much more.
For example, multispecialty peer review committees are commonly responsible for all of the following:
- Taking full responsibility for implementing the Medical Staff peer review policy
- Recommending revisions to the peer review policy and process
- Reviewing and approving the OPPE and FPPE indicators recommended by the departments for each specialty
- Keeping track of system issues that are identified through the peer review process, to ensure that they are addressed and do not fall through the cracks
- Reviewing cases referred to the committee for peer review (which includes developing performance improvement plans for practitioners, where appropriate)
Any peer review committee that is performing all of the above functions must be engaged, educated, and savvy about peer review (so it’s important to make good choices about committee composition and to provide periodic training). So, it only makes sense a hospital and medical staff would honor the commitment of the committee’s members by letting go of micromanagement and embracing a pure oversight role.
Oversight does not mean abdication of all responsibility. But oversight does not require detailed information. All the MEC and governing board need is enough information to be sure that good policies are in place and that the responsible individuals are following them. This means summary/aggregate data reports work well. For example, it should suffice if reports to the MEC and Board list the total number of cases reviewed through the peer review process within a specified period of time, with that data then broken down by department or specialty, with information about how those cases were addressed – e.g., through a letter to the practitioner, a collegial intervention, a performance improvement plan, or otherwise).
Empowering the multispecialty peer review committee to implement the peer review process has other benefits, in addition to demonstrating honor and respect for the committee’s members. For one, by giving primary authority over the peer review process to a non-disciplinary committee, the Medical Staff promotes a peer review process grounded in collegial, progressive steps – rather than a punitive, threatening process.
Further, if collegial steps are unsuccessful in managing a practitioner’s performance issues, the MEC and/or Board may eventually need to get involved. By keeping those bodies out of the initial collegial efforts of the Medical Staff peer review process, the hospital and Medical Staff preserve the members as disinterested individuals, allowing the MEC and/or Board to review matters with a fresh set of eyes when a practitioner comes before them. This promotes fairness in the process, since practitioners who are subject to review can rest assured that there will be multiple layers of review – before committees/bodies that are for the most part disinterested – before any “disciplinary” action were to be imposed.
To conclude – we absolutely do recommend that hospitals and Medical Staffs empower their peer review committees to implement CME requirements, as well as other performance improvement measures, without first having those measures taken to the MEC or Board for approval. It’s efficient, it shows trust in those leaders doing the legwork on peer review, and it is an important part of a collegial, fair process.