QUESTION: We are currently doing an update to our medical staff bylaws, and, as part of the process, have been really focusing on how our committees are structured – making sure they’re accurate, updating functions – things we haven’t looked at in a decade. One of the biggest issues we have is that we have so many committees and it’s the same six people who seem to have to sit on all of them because we just don’t have that many people who are willing to serve any more. Any suggestions?
ANSWER: Yes – consolidation! This is a concern that we hear being raised in hospitals across the country. Medical Staff members are too busy, over committed, looking for work-life balance – whatever the case may be – and they are not as willing or as able to serve in these medical staff leadership roles as was the case in the past. A bylaws revision project is a great time to look at each medical staff committee and determine whether the functions being fulfilled necessitate a fully separate committee, or whether the function might become one component of a committee that fulfills multiple functions. While it used to be typical to see hospitals maintain fully separate committees dedicated to Infection Control, Radiation Safety, Pharmacy & Therapeutics, Performance Improvement, Blood Utilization, Tissue Review – and so on and so on – it is becoming much more commonplace to see, for example, a single “Quality Committee” that performs all of those functions with a member or two who has oversight of each of the specific functions.
The only cautionary note would be to check your state hospital licensing regulations. While most state regulations speak only generally in terms of the above “functions” being fulfilled in the hospital setting, there are still a handful of state regulations that are more proscriptive and do require separate defined committees to fulfill certain functions, so you would want to be sure that any changes made are in compliance with state requirements.