Medical staff and hospital quality leaders can take several steps to protect the integrity of the confidential peer review process. Karen Owens, JD, an attorney with Coppersmith Brockelman in Phoenix, offers these suggestions:
- Know the scope of confidentiality in your state.
- Frequently remind peer review participants, including the affected clinician, of state statutory confidentiality requirements. Some medical staff leaders recite an admonishment at the beginning of every meeting. However, if this happens, ensure committee members do not simply tune out the statement.
- Number and collect peer review documents distributed in committee so those documents do not go missing after the meeting.
- Involve hospital counsel before sharing peer review information outside the hospital. Standard statements may be developed for responding to queries from other hospitals or employers, especially when a physician is either in the peer review process or has been subject to corrective action.
- If a state does not allow sharing peer review information with human resources or other hospital departments, work out an understanding of how and whether to communicate about such matters ahead of time.
- Make sure electronic communications are protected. Avoid copying emails about peer review topics to many people. Absentminded personnel may re-send those messages far and wide.
- Take action immediately when unauthorized disclosures are discovered. This may mean counseling a clinician who made loose statements, collecting documents that have been removed, pulling back emails, and more.