Peer Messengers Help Docs Get Back On Track
It's also important for hospitals to stem patient complaints especially because of the link between them and litigation related to malpractice lawsuits, Pichert says. "There's a high risk of complaints generated by patients that lead folks to go to a plaintiff attorney. Then there's an unexpected outcome and it may be unnecessary," he adds.
A main element of a peer messenger review program, of course, is the makeup and structure of the groups themselves, which are formally known as the Patient Complaints Monitoring Committees.
During the period of Pichert's study, about 178 physicians—14 emergency and medicine physicians, 87 medical generalists, or specialists and 77 surgeons—agreed to be peer messengers. One or more physicians may represent the committees in discussions with doctors being reviewed. Then the committees meet to discuss courses of action.
The Peer Messengers "Widely Respected"
When Vanderbilt looks for peer messenger review members, they look for standardized qualities: peer messenger members were identified as being "widely respected" and "known for their commitment to professionalism, confidentiality and fairness," Pichert says.
And when the peer messengers meet with physicians, they ask them why patients complained about them in the first place. In the Pichert review, at least 48% of the physicians attributed their "high-risk status" to patient complaints related to systems or logistics problems. About 41% blamed their personality or communication style.
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