MDNews - Minnesota

March 2015

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T HIS ARTICLE PRESENTS an overview of a medical organization's internal process that generally follows when serious issues involving a physician's alleged misconduct or clinical competence arise in the workplace. These issues can be career-threatening for the affected physician, and there are impor- tant employment rights to consider throughout the process. Future employment, credentialing and the ability to preserve or again secure professional privileges may depend on successful resolution of a complaint. Given these high stakes, the involvement of legal counsel experienced in representing medical professionals is crucial throughout a review. How the Review Process Works Though many of the specifics of an internal institutional review depend on a given institu- tion's bylaws and/or policies, the process generally involves four fairly standard steps. First, there is usually an initial "informal" disclosure to the physician and an attempt to remediate expeditiously and without serious consequences if the complaint does not allege serious misconduct or a significant deviation from a generally acceptable standard of care. Interviews and meetings are held in an effort to uncover all relevant facts and resolve the matter informally. In Minnesota, legal authority for this approach is found in the Minnesota Peer Review Statute, 1 which provides "review organizations" — the definition of which generally includes committees of hospitals, clinics, and health maintenance organizations that gather and review information related to the care and treatment of patients — confidentiality and immunity from damages. 2 Confidentiality and immunity protections provided by this statute attach, however, only if the organization strictly abides by certain prescribed procedural steps. Importantly, at this point in a review — disclosure of a complaint and informal remediation — a physician may be allowed to resign without a report sent to the state licensing board or the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) established under the Health Care Quality Improvement Act (HCQIA). 3 If the Under the Microscope: A Review of Physicians' Employment Rights When Complaints Occur By Lawrence P. Schaefer, Owner and President, Schaefer Halleen LLC 1 4 | Minnesota MD NEWS ■ M D N E W S . CO M

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