The Government Accountability Office says the Veterans Affairs Department needs to do more to ensure that its hospitals are adequately vetting and monitoring their physicians, based on a review prompted by patient deaths at Marion (Ill.) VA Medical Center.
VA needs to bolster doc-credentialing efforts, GAO says
The GAO visited six VA medical centers and looked at credentialing and privileging files for a sample of physicians, and the report notes that the problems identified were not as severe as those uncovered at the Illinois hospital. Of 180 files reviewed, 29 lacked proper verification of state licensure, the GAO found. In 21 instances, physicians failed to disclose malpractice settlements and judgments, which the GAO discovered by trolling an external database that the medical centers should have consulted.
The GAO’s interest stems from the VA inspector general’s investigation of procedures at the Illinois hospital in response to an unusually high rate of surgical deaths in 2006 and 2007. Surgeries at the facility have been suspended for more than two years. The inspector general found several cases in which surgeons performed procedures they weren’t authorized to do. One physician had reached an agreement with the medical board in another state to cease practicing medicine there.
All six of the facilities the GAO reviewed either failed to document information collected in monitoring physician performance or collected inadequate data, according to the report. Four of them inappropriately used protected performance data, collected for quality improvement, when considering whether to renew a physician’s privileges.
The department agreed with the GAO’s recommendation for a framework to systematically review credentialing and privileging files.
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