QUESTION: How do we handle a situation when there is a physician on the Credentials Committee who is married to another physician, and the spouse’s application is up for consideration?
ANSWER: Every so often we run across physician couples. In those instances, there may be a situation in which the conflict of interest rules for credentialing or peer review activities are implicated. For example, imagine that Dr. Wright is appointed to the Medical Staff, is recognized as having good leadership qualities, and is appointed to the Credentials Committee. Then, his spouse applies for Medical Staff appointment. The application comes before the Credentials Committee and Dr. Wright is told “You can’t vote on the application” but Dr. Wright insists on voting, because “I know this applicant better than any other applicant that has been before this committee!”
Well, that may be so, but Dr. Wright can’t vote! Going back to compliance training and basic conflict of interest rules, Dr. Wright has a conflict of interest regarding his spouse’s application. He is emotionally involved in the outcome, and probably financially involved too. Of course, Dr. Wright can provide any relevant information he may have regarding his spouse and can answer any questions the Credentials Committee may have about her. But, after doing so, it’s prudent for him to leave the Credentials Committee meeting, and not participate in the discussion of his spouse’s credentials or the vote on the application. Also, the minutes should reflect that he left the meeting, the vote occurring after he left, and his return to the meeting.