Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court remanded a case involving possible misconduct by a physician. The issue related to access to the physician's credentialing file, which the Board of Registration in Medicine had sought but the trial court had held was protected by privilege.
The relevant facts:
Hallmark Health Corporation is the parent of Hallmark System, Inc., a licensed hospital facility whose "campuses" include the former Melrose-Wakefield and Lawrence Memorial Hospitals (collectively, Hallmark). The information sought from Hallmark by the board is located in Dr. Doe's credentialing files, which Hallmark maintains pursuant to the requirement that all hospitals have a "qualified patient care assessment program" (QPCAP) to address, among other things, the credentialing of medical staff members. Under Hallmark's medical staff credentialing policy, physicians seeking clinical privileges at Hallmark must apply for an initial appointment and must apply for reappointment at periodic intervals no greater than two years thereafter. An applicant for an initial appointment must provide, among other things, information about prior education, training, experience, and licensure, as well as potentially negative information, including whether the applicant has ever been a criminal defendant, lost a professional license, had clinical privileges withdrawn, or been involved in any professional misconduct proceedings. For reappointment, an applicant must provide, among other things, information about compliance with Hallmark's rules, continuing qualifications, pending malpractice challenges or challenges to licensure, and any limitation, reduction, or loss of clinical privileges. In addition to information supplied by the physician, any incident reports or complaints involving the particular physician become part of the physician's credentialing file. (citations omitted)
The court held:
We remand the case to the Superior Court for an individualized consideration whether each of the documents listed on Hallmark's privilege log is protected by either § 204 (a ) or § 205 (b ), bearing in mind that the burden is on Hallmark to establish that each document is privileged.
The case is Board of Registration in Medicine v. Hallmark Health Corporation, decided today. (Mike Frisch)