QUESTION: I noted that one of the cases that was in this week’s HLE arose as a result of a hospital granting temporary privileges to an applicant for medical staff appointment. While we do not routinely grant temporary privileges, they are useful from time to time. How much risk is there in granting temporary privileges?
ANSWER: While temporary privileges should not be routinely granted, it is not unusual for a hospital’s medical staff bylaws to state that temporary privileges may be granted to applicants for initial appointment whose complete application is pending review by the Medical Executive Committee and the Board. In order to be “complete” there must be verification of licensure, training or experience, current competence, and an ability to perform the privileges requested. In addition, the bylaws should state that in order to be eligible for temporary privileges, an applicant must (i) have had no current or previously successful challenges to licensure or registration, (ii) have not been subject to involuntary termination of medical staff membership at another organization; and (iii) have not been subject to involuntary limitation, reduction, denial, or loss of clinical privileges. The bylaws may include other criteria that must be met before temporary privileges are granted.
Additionally, the hospital must query and evaluate information from the National Practitioner Data Bank and check the Office of Inspector General’s List of Excluded Individuals/Entities before temporary (or any privileges) can be granted. Finally, the grant of temporary privileges should be time limited consistent with the standards of the applicable accreditation organization. According to The Joint Commission standard “Temporary privileges for applicants for new privileges are granted for no more than 120 days.”
It is not clear, but it appears from the facts of the case described above, that the hospital’s hospitalist group had such a need for the nocturnist that it wanted to use temporary privileges to rush a candidate through the hospital’s credentialing process. The temporary privileges were granted and rescinded in 2012, but the litigation did not end until 2019. In this case, not only did granting temporary privileges fail to fill the nocturnist position, but also caused the hospital years of litigation.
The best way to avoid these kinds of situations and the endless litigation that sometimes ensues is only to grant temporary privileges to applicants after a thorough vetting, after confirmation that there are no red flags and only under the above-described circumstances.
QUESTION: We are part of a five-hospital system. Many of our physicians practice at multiple hospitals in our system. We’ve had a couple of occasions lately where one hospital addressed a problem applicant or a problem physician, but the physician just moved to another hospital in our system. We are separate hospitals and separate medical staffs. We have an information sharing agreement and that helps, but we’re not sure it’s enough. Can you help?
ANSWER: You’re off to a good start with an information sharing agreement. That should allow you to share confidential peer review information between and among your sister organizations. There is also language you can add to your bylaws or credentials policy (bylaws documents) that can help. For instance, we recommend threshold eligibility criteria that would render someone ineligible if he or she had staff appointment or privileges “denied, revoked, or terminated” for reasons related to clinical competence or professional conduct at any hospital or health care facility, or had resigned appointment during an investigation, or had an application for appointment not processed due to an omission or misrepresentation. These threshold eligibility criteria apply not only at appointment and reappointment but during the term of appointment and your bylaws documents should make it clear that failure to satisfy these criteria during appointment will result in an automatic relinquishment.
It is also helpful to have language in your bylaws documents that makes it clear that certain actions, such as a performance improvement plan, automatic relinquishment, or professional review action, when taken at one hospital in the system will be automatically effective at all of the other hospitals in the system. The bylaws language should allow for a waiver by the Board, upon the recommendation of the appropriate Medical Executive Committee, when it would not be necessary or appropriate for the action to be effective at any given hospital. This language gives you some wiggle room and some discretion, but it also helps ensure that you are not caught up in redoing peer review efforts, including investigations and hearings, at multiple hospitals in the system. Fortunately, there is helpful language in the National Practitioner Data Bank Guidebook which makes it clear that administrative actions taken by hospitals in a system based exclusively on the action taken at a sister hospital should not be reported to the NPDB.
QUESTION: We are considering having a Credentials Verification Organization (“CVO”) perform primary source verification and other required verifications for our credentialing process. Do we need to have some sort of agreement in place? If so, what should that agreement include?
ANSWER: Regardless of whether you are using an internal CVO (i.e., one that is a part of your organization) or an external, independent CVO (i.e., one that has no corporate affiliation with your hospital), there should be an agreement in place between the CVO and the hospital.
An agreement should define the obligations of the CVO, including the services that it will provide. The agreement should also specifically identify the information that will be verified and the sources that will be used for verification purposes. If ongoing monitoring of practitioners’ credentials is a part of the services the CVO will provide, the agreement should state this and indicate the credentials that will be monitored (e.g., Medicare and Medicaid sanctions and exclusions).
Furthermore, sharing of confidential credentials information should be addressed and include provisions on how sensitive information such as National Practitioner Data Bank reports and drug or alcohol treatment information will be handled and shared. If the hospital is involved in delegated credentialing for third-party payors, there are special considerations for sub-delegation agreements, which would include agreements with an external CVO to perform verification activities.
Specifically, the agreement must require semiannual reporting of the CVO to the hospital on its conduct of the contracted-for activities, describe the process by which the hospital evaluates the CVO’s performance under the agreement, and describe the remedies available to the hospital if the CVO does not fulfill its obligations, including revocation of the delegation agreement.