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Constance H. Baker, Esq., is a partner in the Health Care Group at Venable, LLP. A member of the Maryland and District of Columbia Bars, she advises hospitals, physicians, medical staffs, indpendent schools, and school-related associations. She concentrates in regulatory compliance, medical staff issues, physician peer review, credentialing, and representation of healthcare professionals before state licensing boards and general counseling for independent schools and their associations. She formerly served as an assistant attorney general of Maryland and prosecutor for the Maryland Board of Physicians from 1979–1981. She was named an American Health Lawyers Association fellow in 2007. She was the first female board member of the American Health Lawyers Association from 1977–1988.

Working with External Peer Reviewers: 10 Questions Medical Staffs Should Ask

Deciding when to initiate external peer review can be a daunting task for medical staffs. Even more daunting is the process for ensuring that the external peer review process is fair and protected.  When engaging an external peer reviewer in your facility’s peer review process, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:                            

 1.  Have you taken steps to preserve maximum confidentiality of the external peer review report, including invoking the state peer review document privilege as well as attorney-client privilege if the expert is retained through legal counsel for the institution?

 2.  Have you selected, or has the external peer review organization selected, an individual with impressive credentials, including but not limited to board certification, and without red flags or skeletons in his or her closet?

 3.  Have you supplied the complete medical record and any other supporting documentation that is relative to the particular matter the expert is reviewing?

 4.  Have you determined whether the expert is willing to testify in a hearing if necessary?

 5.  Has the expert reserved the possible hearing dates, as well as adequate time for pre-hearing preparation and discussion?

 6.  Have you provided a letter of defense and indemnification from the institution to the expert?

 7.  Is the expert’s written report clear, unambiguous, and factually accurate? Will it resonate with the hearing panel or other decision-making body such as the medical executive committee or board of directors?

 8.  Have you reached an understanding with the expert as to when the written report will be completed and available? 

9.  Has the expert reviewed any rebuttal or response of the accused physician and has he reflected that review in his report? 

10.  Is the expert an individual who will relate well to your hearing panel, should a hearing be necessary? 

Constance H. Baker is an attorney with Venable LLP in Baltimore.