QUESTION: We have a multi-specialty peer review committee that handles day-to-day peer review activities. What kind of reports and information should that committee provide to the Medical Executive Committee (“MEC”)? Specifically, should the multi-specialty peer review committee provide practitioner-specific details of its reviews to the MEC?
ANSWER: We recommend that the MEC (and the Board) not be provided detailed, practitioner-specific information about individual cases that the multi-specialty peer review committee is handling. There are several reasons for this recommendation:
- If a performance concern cannot be successfully resolved by the peer review committee, the matter will be referred to the MEC (and possibly from there to the Board). The role of the MEC and Board would be to conduct a meaningful, non-biased review of the matter. Essentially, they serve as appeal bodies. If they have been receiving detailed, practitioner-specific reports throughout the review process, the physician under review will allege that the MEC and Board have “pre-judged” the matter and were biased by receiving one-sided reports from the peer review committee.
- The MEC and Board are the only bodies who may recommend or take disciplinary action with respect to a physician (i.e., an action that leads to a hearing and a report to the state board of medicine and the National Practitioner Data Bank). To change the perception of peer review from “disciplinary and punitive” to “educational and constructive,” it makes sense to keep practitioner-specific details away from the two bodies who are responsible for potential discipline. Physicians who are being reviewed may be more collegial and willing to participate in performance improvement efforts if the details of these efforts are not routinely shared with the MEC and Board – especially when there is nothing for the MEC or Board to approve or act upon.
- Using the multi-specialty peer review committee to handle performance issues makes clear that the effort is part of the hospital’s routine peer review process. It is not a “precursor” to disciplinary action, which helps to clarify NPDB reporting obligations.
- Providing practitioner-specific details to 20 – 30 MEC and Board members undermines assurances to Medical Staff members that the peer review process is confidential, and that information will only be shared with those who have a “need to know.”
- The MEC and Board can satisfy their legal responsibilities to oversee the peer review process by reviewing aggregate, anonymized reports regarding the activities of the peer review committee. No practitioner-specific details are required.
Join Paul Verardi and Phil Zarone on March 2, 2021 as they discuss this issue during Building an Effective PPE/Peer Review Process: “Survey Says…”