The physician leader's role in fair hearings

Understanding your role and responsibilities during corrective actions and fair hearings can be the first step in relieving stress due to uncertainty. And according to Jack L. Cox, MD, MMM, who has served in various healthcare executive roles, this starts with medical staff leaders developing an ironclad policy and procedures—before it is time to take corrective action.

"There are two scenarios you do not want to get caught in. The first is not having a solid policy that has been vetted. The second is getting caught having to do this at the last minute when an emergency arises," says Cox. "You want to make sure you have a solid policy in place that the medical staff leaders have reviewed, so if and when it comes up, you know how you are going to handle that [situation]."

For new medical staff leaders, make reviewing the policies and procedures a part of their leadership onboarding/training. Linda Van Winkle, CPMSM, CPCS, former director of medical staff services for CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana, encourages MSPs to take their physician leaders to conferences every year and ensure they have a solid understanding of what their role is. She believes it is worth the time, energy, and expense to invest in physician leadership training so when the time comes for a corrective action or fair hearing, the physician leader will feel confident and supported in his or her role.

Medical staff leaders are also responsible for communicating egregious events to the board of directors, before board members find out through hearsay or a letter informing them the hospital is being sued by Dr. X. This can be difficult for some medical staff leaders because they feel loyal and protective toward the medical staff, Cox says. However, you will win more support from your board of directors as you go through the action if they are not blindsided by the events. Remember, the board has the ultimate accountability.

"You don't want your chair of the board to get an indication that there is a challenge with a physician by reading it in the newspaper," says Cox. "The medical staff leadership and the chair of the board need to sit down and discuss what actions are currently in play. The board should be your advocate."