Guest blog post by Ray Bixler, President and CEO, SkillSurvey

Are you familiar with that awful, sinking feeling?

It’s what you get when your hospital’s legal team – preparing to defend your facility in a malpractice lawsuit – finds disturbing information about the physician who is a co-defendant in the suit. You believed your team had thoroughly vetted him, but it seems he was barred from practicing at a hospital earlier in his career because he lost a malpractice suit there.

Actually, if this is happening to you, that awful, sinking feeling is the least of your troubles. Patients are losing faith in your hospital’s ability to provide good care. Plus, your facility, if it loses the case, will be liable to pay damages.

Don’t let this nightmare happen to you and your hospital! Your best defense is to practice thorough, efficient credentialing. You’ll protect patients, as well as safeguard your institution against legal action.

And, there’s never been a better time to be more conscientious about credentialing. According to a new SkillSurvey whitepaper, more than half of all U.S. states now recognize negligent credentialing as a reason for litigation against healthcare organizations. For example, in a 2012 Massachusetts case, a patient sued his doctor and the two medical facilities where the doctor practiced, claiming that one of the facilities negligently credentialed the physician. The case was significant because it established, for the first time, that Massachusetts hospitals could be sued for negligent credentialing.

So, how to best protect yourself from doctors who do damage? Minimizing Credentialing Risk: How to Protect Your Patients and Your Hospital, has a few suggestions to prevent bad physician hiring decisions, some of them best practices already established by the National Association of Medical Staff Services (NAMSS). According to the whitepaper, NAMSS recommends that hospitals collect 13 pieces of information to fully vet an applicant:

1. Proof of identity

2. Education and training

3. Military service

4. Professional licensure

5. DEA registration and state DPS and CDS certifications

6. Board certification

7. Affiliation and work history

8. Criminal background disclosure

9. Sanctions disclosure

10. Health status

11. National Practitioner Data Bank (provides healthcare-specific information on state and federal criminal convictions and civil judgments, as well as malpractice history and hospital sanctions)

12. Malpractice insurance

13. Professional references

If you’re a hospital risk manager, you likely have a keen interest in keeping your patients healthy and your facility protected from legal action. SkillSurvey’s new whitepaper also recommends ways you can establish good credentialing practices. Here are the top three suggestions:

– Advocate for education and training for medical staff professionals and medical staff leaders

– Encourage networking with other medical staff professionals

– Champion certifications for medical staff professionals (read the whitepaper to learn more)

It’s also a smart idea to automate your credentialing processes because automation nets faster, more complete information along with an electronic trail of where you obtained the information. Your best bet is cloud-based software that allows peer references access to online links to fill out information – versus faxing or emailing forms that need to be downloaded and filled out. Such systems mean you get your information in a matter of days, rather than the industry standard of 4-5 weeks.

Do you want to transform the way you credential doctors – so that you best protect patients and your medical facility? Read SkillSurvey’s new whitepaper, Minimizing Credentialing Risk: How to Protect Your Patients and Your Hospital, and explore the role that automation plays in practicing sound credentialing.

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