Hospitals Responsible for Physicians' Bad Behavior

Liz Jones for HealthLeaders Media , October 20, 2010

Wolff explains that in some states, disruptive behavior is considered a sentinel event and is reportable to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB is the medical staff's last line of defense in combating disruptive behavior.

In states where the medical staff bylaws are considered a contract between the independent physician and the medical staff, the medical staff may terminate the physician's privileges for breach of contract, says Wolff. "The contract may have a clause that says you must act in a collegial nature toward your colleagues and behave in a way that will engender respect." If a physician can't live up to the terms of the contract, he or she is not entitled to privileges.

The medical staff and the hospital should work together to ensure that any claim of harassment or discrimination is nipped in the bud during the early stages, and the best way to do that is through strong policies and frequent training.

Having an organizationwide code of conduct policy, which is required under Joint Commission standard LD.3.01.01, isn't enough; the hospital needs to publish it. McAuliffe Miller suggests that HR e-mail the policy to employees and nonemployees with a read receipt and distribute it at meetings every two years. The medical staff should do the same with its behavior policy, which is located either in the medical staff bylaws or in separate accompanying documents.

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