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Idaho high court recognizes negligent credentialing by hospitals

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 3, 2009

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An Idaho Supreme Court ruling reinforced that patients can sue hospitals for allegedly granting privileges to physicians with questionable credentials.

Some doctors and hospitals have expressed concern that allowing such negligent credentialing claims could compromise the peer review process. At least 25 states have recognized negligent credentialing claims.

In 2004, H. Ray Harrison sued Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center after complications arose when he showed up at the emergency department with low sodium levels and an elevated blood alcohol content. The patient alleged that the doctors who treated him misdiagnosed him and were unqualified. The hospital and physicians denied any wrongdoing.

A trial court found that the hospital was immune from liability under the state's peer review statute because it relied on the recommendations of a peer review committee responsible for credentialing doctors.

But the high court disagreed in a July 7 decision. While the liability protections were intended to encourage doctors to freely exchange information needed to conduct peer review and credentialing activities without fear of a lawsuit, nothing in the statute granted immunity to hospitals for the credentialing decisions they ultimately make, justices said.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2009/08/03/prbf0803.htm.

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