A Different Type of Med Mal: Negligent Credentialing


By Lynn Fugaro, Staff Writer

When people think of medical malpractice, images of surgeries gone wrong and emergency room errors that cost lives come to mind. Medical malpractice takes numerous forms including delayed or misdiagnosis, medication errors, surgical errors, ER errors, interpretation of lab result mistakes, childbirth errors, and so many others.

But there’s a lesser known type of medical malpractice that takes place in the United States; your medical malpractice lawyer will know about, but it’s important that “regular” people like us who put our lives in our doctors’ hands understand this subtler form of medical malpractice known as “negligent credentialing.”

What is Negligent Credentialing?

Typically, a negligent credentialing claim will be brought against a hospital for failure to adequately conduct a credentialing review of a physician. When the credentialing process is lacking, a doctor with a criminal past, with a history of medical mistakes, or with a history of substance abuse may be allowed to practice medicine in a new geographical area where his history is not known.

Hospitals have a duty and the authority to examine the qualifications of any doctor seeking hospital privileges. Hospitals have a duty and the authority to limit a doctor to practice only in areas of the hospital it deems the physician qualified for, or the hospital may prevent the doctor from getting privileges due to incompetency, lack of qualifications, inexperience, or recklessness. Basically, hospitals owe patients a duty of care to be treated by physicians deemed competent.

Sadly, however, some medical professionals slip through the cracks due to problems with the credentialing process, and when that happens, lives can be ruined and lives can be lost.

Proving Negligent Credentialing

For the areas of your state of residence that recognize claims of negligent credentialing (as not all jurisdictions do recognize this form of medical malpractice), plaintiffs (the injured person or the family of a deceased person) typically must show the following:

  1. The hospital has failed to meet the standard of reasonable care in granting its staff privileges that led to the medical negligence claim.
  2. The physician in question breached the “applicable standard of care” while practicing under negligently granted privileges.
  3. The negligent granting of medical provider privileges was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries (or death).

Simply put, a claim for negligent credentialing in a medical malpractice claim arises out of the belief that the hospital has a “direct and independent responsibility to its patients to take reasonable steps to ensure that staff physicians using hospital facilities are qualified for the privileges granted.”

Who or What Provides Credentialing?

The Joint Commission is a private non-profit organization that provides hospital accreditation. Founded in 1951 and federally approved, the primary role of The Joint Commission came about in the mid 1960’s when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed what was called the Social Security Act amendments establishing Medicare and Medicaid. The amendments required hospitals to meet certain safety standards in order to receive federal money from those programs. At the time of this writing, The Joint Commission is the credentialing/accrediting organization for about 80% of hospitals in this country.

If you or someone you love has been harmed by a reckless or incompetent physician who should not have had privileges in any medical facility, please contact a medical malpractice attorney in your area today to schedule a no-cost consultation as you may be entitled to compensation for the harm suffered.

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