QUESTION: Our hospital affiliated group signed an employment contract with a new surgeon. Before we got very far with the credentialing process, he had moved to town and the Chief Medical Officer of the Group was putting pressure on the Credentials Committee to approve his application for appointment. The problem is that there were multiple red flags we discovered, including a pending complaint with the state board, a very bad reference, and unexplained gaps in his professional experience. If he had not been employed by our Group already, we would definitely not want to appoint him. To make matters worse, we just learned that he resigned his appointment at the last hospital where he practiced and he’s in town. What do we do?
ANSWER: We hear some version of this problem on a regular basis from clients all across the country. In many hospitals and health care systems, the recruitment and employment process are out of alignment with the credentialing process. It is not uncommon (although it is very unwise) for employment decisions to be made, signing bonuses to be paid, and representations to be made to new recruits of the credentialing process being a “slam dunk” or a “done deal” before the Credentials Committee has reviewed the application.
Everyone who is applying for appointment must meet the same threshold eligibility criteria. Everyone must bear the burden of demonstrating that they have the requisite: (a) current competence; (b) technical skills; (c) clinical judgment; (d) adherence to the ethics of their profession; (e) good reputation and character; (f) ability to safely and competently exercise the clinical privileges requested; and (g) ability to work harmoniously with others. When there are questions or concerns raised about an applicant, the application should be considered incomplete and not processed until those concerns are resolved.
Your credentialing process is the foundation for the quality of care that you deliver in your organization. You should not take shortcuts or make exceptions, especially for employed physicians. As hard as it might be, and as much pressure as they might feel, Medical Staff Leaders need to stay the course. It is important that applicants are treated the same, regardless of whether they are being recruited and employed by the system or they are in private practice. Keeping the burden on the applicant to address and resolve all concerns is the best course of action. Medical Staff Leaders should also document, in detail, the concerns that they have.
Moving forward, find a way to align and coordinate your recruitment and credentialing efforts. Bringing the people together who are responsible for these functions is an important first step. Efforts should be undertaken to coordinate threshold criteria, objectives, and timelines. It is also important to find a way to share information early on so the people who are doing the recruiting have the same information that Medical Staff Leaders will have when reviewing the application. Whether they are working to recruit or credential physicians, the objectives should be the same – bringing high quality physicians into the organization in as timely a fashion as possible.
Please join us in our national program – Credentialing for Excellence – where we discuss this challenge and other credentialing challenges.