Medical Staff

How many medical staff committees do we really need?

Medical Staff Leader Insider, September 13, 2007

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Dear medical staff leader:

Nowadays medical staff members attend between 15 to 20 medical staff committee meetings that accomplish little, consume massive amounts of time, and run inefficiently. Every time The Joint Commission creates a requirement or function, which a medical staff or Medical Executive Committee (MEC) must address, it seems we create yet another committee.
Originally, the MEC performed all the functions required by a medical staff but as the requirements and functions have expanded, the MEC has essentially created sub-committees of itself to accomplish these tasks. But today, how many medical staff committees do we really need?
Surprisingly to many, The Joint Commission requires only one medical staff committee: the MEC.
However, a truly effective medical staff must successfully govern itself, credential and privilege new practitioners, and monitor the quality of care practitioners provide.
Most staffs accomplish these tasks with the establishment of the MEC, the credentials and the medical staff quality/peer review committees.
Other committees may be required due to a law or accreditation standard. For example, The American College of Surgeons (ACS) requires that a trauma and cancer committee be in place in order to be accredited for those specialties. To grant Category I credits, you must have a continuing medical education committee (CME); if you are involved in research, you must have your own or a commercial Institutional Review Board (IRB); if you train residents, you need a graduate medical education committee.
All other committees should fall in the category of optional, and you should consider keeping them only if they provide value to the organization.
When eliminating committees is not an option, you may want to consider assigning a physician who acts as an expert or advisor on a hospital committee therefore maximizing resources and medical staff time. The president of the medical staff can appoint designated physician leaders to serve on hospital committees to help fulfill medical staff functions.
This strategy seems to work well for tasks like blood usage, utilization review, medical records, ethics, pharmacy/therapeutics, and infection control. Also, remember that it may only be necessary for some committees (such as bylaws, practitioner health, or a combined medical staff/board joint conference committee) to meet on an ad-hoc basis.
Sometimes less can be more and as Albert Einstein said, "all things should be made as simple as possible....but not more so."

Joseph Cooper, M.D.
The Greeley Company  

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