Out in the open. Previously privileged peer review information is now fair game for malpractice attorneys in Kansas.
Last month the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that all plaintiffs and their attorneys have access to peer review information. While under Kansas law, peer-review documents are privileged information, the court ruled that plaintiffs have a constitutional right to review the information as a result of due process.
Peer reviews are an internal system of checks and balances through which medical professionals evaluate one another, and they are considered preeminent in assessing patient care.
Opponents of the decision fear that without confidentiality, providers will hesitate to participate in the peer-review process, an action that could directly affect the pursuit of quality patient care. Also, those who don't participate in the peer-review system might be excluded from managed-care plans and state licensing, which use the reviews to credential providers.
Affirming diversity. Without affirmative action, 80% fewer minorities would have been accepted into medical school in 1996, according to a report released last month by the American Association of Medical Colleges.
Since California revoked its affirmative action policies in 1996, physicians and others have expressed concern that medical schools will again be segregated, as they were before affirmative action was implemented in the 1960s.
"If we (were) unable to use the tool of affirmative action, only 2% of all medical students would be minorities," says AAMC President Jordan J. Cohen, M.D.
According to the report, the number of minority students accepted to medical school in 1996 would have declined from 1,890 to 397 if minority students were required to have the same grades and MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) scores as white students.
The report counted blacks, Latinos, mainland Puerto Ricans and Native Americans as minorities. It showed that despite their lower test scores upon entering medical school, 87% of minority students who matriculated in 1990 graduated from medical school. This figure compares favorably to that for white students (95%) and Asians (94%).
IPO update. Two dental practice management companies, American Dental Partners and Pentegra Dental Group, are the latest to enter the public market. Of the four PPM initial public offerings in 1998, three have been dental companies.
For American Dental Partners, based in Wakefield, Mass., its first day of trading on the Nasdaq National Market was April 16. The company offered 2.25 million shares for $15. The stock opened at $17.75, raising $39.2 million, before closing at $17.44 at the end of the day.
Pentegra Dental Group, based in Phoenix, went public March 25 on the American Stock Exchange. Pentegra opened and closed the day at its original offer price of $8.50. With 2.5 million shares in the IPO, Pentegra raised $21.3 million.
Cut that out. Most medical residents say they are mistreated at some point during their first year of work, though overall they report a moderate level of job satisfaction, according to a 1991 study published in the April 15 Journal of the American Medical Association.
Of the 1,277 respondents to the mailed survey, 93% reported experiencing at least one incident of perceived mistreatment. The majority, about 70%, said they saw a colleague working in an impaired condition, most often a lack of sleep; 53% reported being belittled or humiliated by senior residents; and 45% saw a colleague falsifying medical records.
In addition, 63% of women reported at least one incident of sexual harassment or discrimination.
Overall job satisfaction was reported as "moderate," based on the ratio of respondents' positive and negative experiences.
The AMA said it was troubled by the survey's findings. "Any incident of mistreatment of patients or residents is intolerable," AMA Vice Chair Randolph Smoak said.
Whether reforms in hospital working conditions that have been made since 1991 have been effective won't be known until another survey is taken, the AMA says.