The relationship between doctors and hospitals is a complex one. Most people assume that the doctors work for or are partners in the hospital. While some hospitals choose to employ their doctors, it is much more common for the doctors to be independent contractors. The hospitals give the doctors the right to admit patients to the hospital and use their facilities, a decision known as “credentialing.”
Yet, hospitals cannot simply give privileges to whomever they want. The law imposes a duty on hospitals to exercise reasonable care in managing their facilities in order to protect patients. Failure to do so can see the hospital held liable for negligent credentialing.
What Is Negligent Credentialing?
Negligent credentialing occurs when a hospital allows a physician to use their facilities despite that physician’s lack of qualifications. Illinois law requires a plaintiff to prove three things in order to prevail on a negligent credentialing claim:
- 1. The hospital breached its duty of care by improperly granting staff privileges to an unqualified physician;
- 2. The physician breached the medical standard of care by providing medically negligent treatment in conjunction with their negligently awarded privileges; and
- 3. The awarding of the privileges was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, meaning that the direct cause of the injuries was the fact that the hospital negligently granted staff privileges to the doctor.
One of the difficulties of winning on a negligent credentialing claim is proving that first element. This requires evidence of what the hospital knew when they credentialed the physician and how thorough their procedures were. The Illinois Supreme Court recently took a case to determine whether plaintiffs in a lawsuit may have access to those records, Klaine v. Southern Hospital Services.
Klaine v. Southern Illinois Hospital Services
The issue in Klaine arises from a colon surgery gone wrong. The plaintiff wanted to pursue a negligent credentialing claim against the hospital, and as part of discovery process the plaintiff requested information about the surgeon’s credentialing process, such as his work history, prior insurance claims against him, and recommendations about his credentialing by the hospital staff. The hospital resisted, citing an Illinois law requiring that a physician’s application for staff privileges be kept “confidential.” The appeals court decided that there was a difference between general confidentiality rules and “privilege,” the special, heightened form of confidentiality that protects things from disclosure during a lawsuit. The Supreme Court will now take the case on to determine if the appeals court was correct in that determination.
The landscape of medical malpractice law is constantly changing. If you have been injured by a physician’s negligence and want to learn more about your options, contact a Crystal Lake medical malpractice attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC today. Our firm helps injured patients all across the northwest suburbs, including in towns like Inverness, Palatine, and Schaumburg.
About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.