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3 Tips for Implementing an Electronic Peer Review Process

peer review process

Clinical peer review is a critical step in evaluating a team member’s performance following a patient safety event or as part of an organization’s credentialing process. Although peer review in healthcare is a key element of improving patient safety and quality, the quality process model that has prevailed in the healthcare industry over the past 30 years leaves much to be desired in improving quality outcomes. 1

According to a study by the American Journal of Medical Quality, data from 296 acute care hospitals show that “inadequate peer review programs and related organizational factors can explain up to 18% of the variation in standardized measures of quality and patient safety.” 2

The study finds that the majority of peer review programs rely on an “outmoded and dysfunctional process model”, and that the adoption of best practices informed by a peer review program “has the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes.” 2

Implementing an electronic process for peer review can be beneficial in streamlining the process while anonymously protecting the reviewer, as well as providing lessons to prevent incidents from occurring in the future. When implementing an electronic process for peer review in healthcare, organizations should consider the following tips:

1. Streamline the Process

In order to achieve lasting impacts on patient safety and quality, it’s important for organizations to have a streamlined process in place for assigning peer reviews and monitoring the follow-up management process. Developing a streamlined process involves asking questions such as:

  • Is everyone using the same methodology?
  • What is the expected turnaround time for a clinical peer review?
  • Does the reviewer need to be anonymous?
  • Is the clinician being evaluated by a reviewer in the same specialty? (For example, a Cardiologist reviewing another Cardiologist.) 

2. Put Processes in Place for Identifying Trends

Conducting peer reviews helps healthcare organizations become more process driven by putting systems in place for sharing information and identifying trends. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “the end product of peer review should be improvement of patient care through physician education and health system improvement. The process of peer review in healthcare should seek to identify potential systematic improvements that the organization could implement to reduce the chances of mistakes or adverse events in the future.” 3

Having a central channel for sharing data after the peer review process helps with learning and can lead to reduced errors and the prevention of adverse events in the future.

3. Promote a Culture of Safety

As healthcare organizations restructure their peer review processes, leadership teams are beginning to observe a shift from a punitive culture to a more supportive environment that encourages performance improvement—sometimes known as a “safety culture”. 4

A Patient Safety Culture is “the culmination of individual and group beliefs, values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behavior that determine the organization’s commitment to quality and patient safety.” 5

When employees and staff are encouraged to perform peer reviews truthfully without the fear of negative repercussions, it promotes a culture of safety that is paramount in improving quality outcomes.

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A Comprehensive Software Solution for Peer Review

One way to improve the peer review process and achieve higher quality outcomes is to implement a software solution for peer review in healthcare. Benefits of implementing a peer review software solution include:

  • Standardize management of the peer review process
  • Provide a central channel for team communication
  • Get real-time notifications and alerts
  • Analyze custom dashboards to track trends over time

By encouraging the sharing of information, putting processes in place for effective communication, and promoting a culture of safety, peer review can positively impact quality outcomes in healthcare.

Healthcare organizations that are interested in implementing a software solution for peer review can learn more sign up for a demo here.
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1- Edwards, MT. Journal of Healthcare Management. (2013). A longitudinal study of clinical peer review's impact on quality and safety in U.S. hospitals. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24195344
2- QA to QI Consulting. American Journal of Medical Quality. (2011). The objective impact of clinical peer review on hospital quality and safety. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21169223
3- Peer Review. American Academy of Family Physicians. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/about/policies/all/peer-review.html
4- Susan Kreimer. Peer Review Done Right Benefits Patients, Physicians and Organizations. American Association for Physician Leadership. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.physicianleaders.org/news/peer-review-done-right-benefits-patients-physicians-and-organizations-
5- The Patient Safety Systems (PS) chapter of The Joint Commission Accreditation Manual. Retrieved from https://www.jointcommission.org/patient_safety_systems_chapter_for_the_hospital_program/

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