Will economic credentialing nix your admitting privileges?

June 1, 2005

Whether you are a physician investing in a local surgical center or have a small lab in your office, you could become a victim of economic credentialing if you don't understand your hospital's rules and regulations.

Whether you are a physician investing in a local surgical center or have a small lab in your office, you could become a victim of economic credentialing if you don't understand your hospital's rules and regulations. Although many oppose the practice of granting or withholding privileges to physicians based on financial factors, hospitals have defended their right to protect themselves from potential competition and conflicts of interest with their staff, according to American Medical News (3/28/05).

The American Medical Association defines economic credentialing as "the use of economic criteria unrelated to quality of care or professional competency in determining an individual's qualifications for initial or continuing hospital medical staff membership or privileges." Hospital economic credentialing policies may require physicians to disclose potential competing interests and prevent them from holding leadership positions at the hospital, or in the extreme case, withhold privileges from physicians with any competing interests.

To protect against the threat of economic credentialing, experts recommend that physicians become familiar with state laws and the hospital bylaws that could affect their privileges. If physicians have a potential competing interest with their hospital, they should attempt to collaborate with their facility-maintaining a positive relationship with hospital leaders.

Finally, if the risk is high that privileges will be lost, physicians should enlist the help of an attorney, who could check to see if the hospital has violated any of its bylaws and procedures and explain the physicians' appellate rights. In addition, medical associations such as the AMA can offer assistance and guidance.