A four-year study which ended in 2005 evaluated 375 physicians deemed to be at "high-risk" for possible litigation. After peer messenger involvement, 64% of the targeted physicians had shown improvements in their work, Pichert and his colleagues report in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. About 19% of the physicians did not change their behavior, and 7% actually worsened, the report states.
In what Pichert called outright successes, 34% of physicians who met with the peer messengers for two years improved their "risk scores." The peer messenger's first visits averaged barely over a half hour, and follow up visits took less.
Overall, peer review is becoming an increasingly important element in determining physicians' conduct and helping them on the straight and narrow, whether it involves clinical quality or bedside manner.
Although the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provides guidance for managing complaints and grievances about physicians, "the value of such reports lie in what the organization decides to do with information thus learned," Pichert says. And that's where the peer messenger review process helps fill the gap, he adds.