As case law continues to build, it is becoming clear just how broad this amendment is. In 2008, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in Notami Hospital of Florida, Inc. v. Bowen and Florida Hospital Waterman, Inc. v. Buster that Amendment 7 trumps all other Florida laws that protect peer review privilege. In July 2010, The District Court of Appeal of Florida ruled that the defendant hospital must produce a risk management incident report, a peer review form, and other peer review documents to the plaintiff in Baldwin v. Shands. This most recent decision emphasizes just how much information patients—and their lawyers—have at their fingertips.
“There has been a move to reduce or eliminate documentation on medical review activities. A lot of peer review committees now do not take minutes of their meetings, and if they do, they are sanitized. The minutes are broad, and no patients or physicians are identified,” says George Indest, Esq., an attorney with The Health Law Firm in Altamonte Springs, FL.
However, choosing to keep only sketchy documentation of peer review activities can have a negative effect on peer review as a whole. According to Indest, inadequate documentation can result the medical staff’s inability to obtain meaningful feedback from the healthcare providers involved in specific incidents when they are unable to identify the specific incident or patient about whom feedback is sought.
They may also be unable to comply with certifying or accrediting organizations’ guidelines and requirements or unable to demonstrate compliance with state requirements for peer review activities.