Profession

Georgia ruling may lift peer review protections

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted July 6, 2009

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In a decision doctors say could threaten peer review protections, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in June that plaintiffs alleging negligent credentialing claims could discover certain hospital credentialing records.

The court found that unless the credentialing information involved an evaluation of the quality and efficiency of medical services, it was not protected under the state's peer review privilege. Using the peer review process to protect routine credentialing activities "would needlessly run the risk of barring a plaintiff's tort action for negligent credentialing," the high court said in Hospital Authority of Valdosta v. Meeks.

Donald Palmisano Jr., the Medical Assn. of Georgia general counsel and director of government relations, said the opinion disregards the legislative intent of the peer review statute, which is to ensure patient safety. The medical association monitored the case, but was not directly involved.

"The practical application is, sometimes the peer review committee does the credentialing, and now this really affects how hospitals and physicians involved in the process do business," Palmisano said. "Allowing some of this information not to be subject to privilege could really jeopardize patient care."

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2009/07/06/prbf0706.htm.

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