April 23, 2020

QUESTION:          Any tips for virtual board meetings?


ANSWER:            My wife, Pauline, was sworn in as mayor of our municipality in January.  There was a council meeting in February, but the meeting in March was cancelled due to COVID-19.  However, the municipality’s business still had to be conducted, so the April meeting had to be held, and it was conducted as a “virtual” meeting.

The first tip is to have two or three “dry runs” to work out any glitches.  During the dry runs, some council members were having trouble getting into the meeting, or would get into the meeting but couldn’t be heard, or couldn’t be seen.  Those problems were all solved.  So, work with the IT department to identify and solve issues.

Another tip is to realize that the normal procedure may have to be altered for practical reasons.  Usually at council meetings, the public is permitted to speak after each agenda item is on the floor.  So, in a normal meeting, if there are five agenda items, a resident may get up to speak five times.  However, because that would have been technically difficult, burdensome and not very practical in a virtual meeting, the procedure was changed so that a resident could speak regarding any or all of the agenda items all at once.

An additional tip is to start the board meeting with a “confidentiality reminder.”  These aren’t necessary at council meetings since our municipality has to adhere to the state “sunshine” act which means that the meetings are open to the public, except for some very specific issues, such as personnel matters.  So, start the meeting with a reminder and document it in the minutes.  The reminder could include practical matters, such as stating the board members should try to avoid being in a place in the house where the members can be overheard, or the audio from the meeting can be heard.  Also, a reminder to not download emails with peer review, Protected Health Information, or confidential attachments to their home computers which everyone in the house has access to.

Finally, when COVID-19 has hopefully passed, take everything that has been learned to develop a policy on virtual meetings.  Hopefully, it will never have to be used again, but you will be ready for the next big snowstorm!

October 5, 2017

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.