Communication with HR is key

It is very important for the medical staff to be clear on what, if any, impact an employment decision has on a physician’s clinical privileges. Effective communication between HR, administration, and the medical staff (particularly the medical staff president and MSP) is crucial, the experts say. 

“What you need to know is, if a doctor is employed, it is the responsibility of the employer [i.e., the hospital or other affiliated entity] to notify medical staff services when a physician’s employment is terminated if that action results in automatic termination of privileges,” says Catherine M. Ballard, former partner at Bricker & Eckler LLP, in Columbus, Ohio.

Most MSPs never see an employment contract because HR and medical staff services are two separate worlds. HR must communicate to the medical staff any action the employer takes that impacts the physician’s privileges. For example, if a physician is required to take call, but the employer has placed him or her on administrative leave, the physician could be subject to medical staff corrective action if he or she fails to respond to call. Miscommunication can also lead to a physician continuing to exercise his or her privileges in situations that potentially expose patients to harm or open the institution to liability risk.

“To avoid acrimonious discussions when a problem arises, the hospital's medical staff should have a policy on joint disclosure of issues with employed physicians between HR/administration and the medical staff,” recommends Marna Sorensen, CPMSM, former director of medical staff services at Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, Idaho. “The medical staff is responsible for its members and the care they provide, and must be informed if they are to adequately fulfill this responsibility.”