A Working Model for the Extraordinary Review of Clinical Privileges for Doctors and Dentists in the Australian Capital Territory

Article excerpt

Abstract.

The extraordinary (unplanned) review of clinical privileges is the means by which an organisation can manage specific complaints about individual practitioners' clinical competence that require immediate investigation. To date, the extraordinary review of clinical privileges for doctors and dentists has not been the subject of much research and there is a pressing need for the evaluation and review of how different legislated and non-legislated administrative processes work and what they achieve. Although it seems a fair proposition that comprehensive processes for the evaluation of the clinical competence of doctors and dentists may improve the overall delivery of an organisation's clinical services, in fact, little is known about the relationship between the safety and quality of specific clinical services, procedures and interventions and the efficiency or effectiveness of established methodologies for the routine or the extraordinary review of clinical privileges. The authors present a model of a structured approach to the extraordinary review of clinical privileges within a clinical governance framework in the Australian Capital Territory. The assessment framework uses a primarily qualitative methodology, underpinned by a process of systematic review of clinical competence against the agreed standards of the CanMEDS Physician Competency Framework. The model is a practical, working framework that could be implemented on a hospital-, area health service- or state- and territory-wide basis in any other Australian jurisdiction.

What is known about the topic? In Australia, there is a national standard for credentialing and defining the scope of clinical practice for doctors working in hospital settings. However, there are no published reports in the national arena on established processes for the extraordinary review of clinical privileges for doctors or dentists and, despite the major inquiries investigating health system failures in Australian hospitals, the effectiveness and adequacy of existing processes for the extraordinary review of clinical privileges has not yet been prioritised nationally as an area for improvement or reform. Internationally, health care organisations have also been slow to establish frameworks for the management of complaints about doctors or dentists.

What does this paper add? This paper makes a significant contribution to the national and international safety and quality literature by presenting an exposition of a working model for the extraordinary review of clinical privileges of doctors and dentists. The authors describe a methodology in the public health sector that is territory-wide (not hospital-based), peer-reviewed, objective, fair and responsive. Because the model is a practical, working framework that could be implemented on a hospital-, area health service- or state- and territory-wide basis in any other Australian jurisdiction, this paper provides an opportunity for policy makers and legislators to drive innovative change. Although incursions into the provision of care by other health professionals have been avoided, the model could be readily adopted by clinical leaders from the nursing and allied health professions.

What are the implications for practitioners? An organisation dedicated to investigating serious complaints with a real sense of urgency, objectivity and transparency is far less likely to fester a climate of disquiet or anger amongst staff, or to trigger concerns of a 'cover-up' or disregard for accountability than an organisation not adopting such an approach. Anecdotal experience suggests the model has the potential to minimise, if not prevent, the occurrence of the kinds of complaints that become much-publicised in the media. This is positive because these types of damaging high profile cases often have the effect of diminishing community confidence in the health care system, in particular, confidence in the medical profession's ability to self-regulate. …