FEBRUARY 12, 2020
Peer reviews are integral to the success of your FQHC. They provide actionable ways for you to improve patient care, grow the skills of staff, maintain the integrity of your facility, and address potential problems that have been hiding under the surface.
Of course, that’s when they’re done properly. When mishandled, peer reviews can do the exact opposite of what’s intended. They can reduce the amount of time spent with patients, produce internal friction, and create confusion among your staff.
So, whether you’re handling your peer reviews internally or externally through a service like Peerspectiv, it’s essential to treat your peer reviews seriously and with the respect they deserve—because they can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
Here are 10 ways to improve your FQHC peer reviews:
Be Patient-Focused, Not Doctor-Focused
It may sound obvious, but it’s easy to lose focus of your true purpose for conducting peer reviews. You got into the healthcare field to help patients, not to critique doctors. Sure, those two things often go hand-in-hand, but it’s important to review doctors’ performances with their patients in mind.
The differences may be subtle. For instance, are you looking at doctors’ practices or are you looking at how effective their care is for patients? By keeping your patients as the focus for your reviews, you can ensure you’re being most effective with your feedback.
What’s the point of conducting peer reviews if your standards are a moving target? Before you even begin to offer feedback on a doctor’s ability to provide care, you need to decide what your FQHC’s standard of care should be.
This starts with definitive, actionable targets for patient healthcare. If your staff is going to be critiqued, instructed, or even reprimanded for their practices, they need to be able to see where and how they’re falling short of the standard. Plus, having defined standards that don’t change over time will create consistency in between reviews, giving you the ability to measure trends and mark improvements.
Not All Detours Are Violations
So now that you have your standards defined, you can know when doctors are veering from the path. But it’s also important to remember that while standards are important, your patients don’t fit squarely into a set of rules. Each person is different, and sometimes they require different types of methods for treatment.
The standards you set can be a great indicator, but it’s important to look at ‘violations’ on a case-by-case basis. Is the healthcare provider veering from procedure responsibly in order to provide specific, personal care for their patient? Or are they violating procedure unknowingly or irresponsibly? It’s important to know the difference, and that takes an eye for detail.
Don’t Be Reluctant to Act
The entire purpose of a peer review is to address issues, or even potential issues. But you’d be surprised to know how often “small” issues or trends can go overlooked or ignored due to a fear of conflict.
But, ideally peer reviews can help you spot issues before they become problems, so you can address them head-on. Your staff should know that patient care is at the forefront of your mission, and by addressing even the smallest issues when they’re first noticed, you’re creating an environment built on refinement and improvement—not punishment and admonition.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
You won’t be able to notice small detours from policy and concerning trends before they become real problems if you’re not regularly conducting objective peer reviews. It takes a consistent review process for you to make the most of the results.
There’s a reason dentists recommend a cleaning and examination every six months; because if you go once every two or three years, you’re going to be addressing real problems during every visit. While peer reviews may seem like a pain, if you conduct them regularly you’ll be saving yourself a lot of pain in the long run.
Objectivity is Key
Peer reviews are often difficult for the same reason they’re so important. You have professionals who know each other personally offering notes and feedback. Feelings can be hurt or, even worse, feedback can be tempered to “protect” those same feelings.
It’s for this reason that we recommend, and provide, objective peer reviews. By bringing in an external source, you’re ensuring that you’re only bringing a professional factor to the review and no extra baggage. By keeping the process objective, you and your staff will know you’re getting feedback for all the right reasons- then you can act on it.
Improvement Over Punishment
There’s a difference between criticism and feedback. Criticism is simply pointing out failures and mistakes for the sake of pointing them out. Feedback, by definition, is criticism with the overarching goal of improvement.
When conducting your peer reviews, it’s important to focus on improving the services you provide to your patients, not simply reprimanding doctors. So when you’re providing feedback, be sure the person on the receiving end knows why they’re receiving that feedback: How do their shortcomings affect patient care negatively? If that question can’t be answered, then maybe it’s not feedback worth giving.
Are Your Reviewers Qualified?
Healthcare is a broad term. Even within the walls of your FQHC, patients are receiving a wide array of services. So, when reviewing your peers, it’s important that the reviewer is as specialized as the reviewee. You wouldn’t have a dentist peer reviewing an OBGYN, right?
At Peerspectiv, we specialize in specialties. Our Specialists are handpicked for each peer review, offering expert feedback that makes sense for the services provided, including: pediatrics, adults primary care, family medicine, vision, dental care, behavioral health, OBGYN, and more.
Even for internal reviews, though, it’s important to ensure you’re matching reviewers and reviewees in the most appropriate way possible. That way you can know they’re sharing information that’s been gathered over time in the same field.
Look For Broader Implications
While peer reviews are important for individual staff members, they’re also important for your FQHC as a whole. As we said earlier, it’s incredibly important to repeat the peer review process often, not only so you can catch mistakes early, but also so you can begin to notice trends- both positively and negatively.
If you’re seeing doctors making the same mistake over and over again, maybe it’s worth taking a look at your standards or procedures? By looking at data and anecdotes over time, you can begin piece together the bigger picture of how your FQHC is operating.
Respect the Process
It’s easy to look at the peer review process as an obstacle or a detour from your real work. But if your staff is going to be providing the best care possible, they need to be held accountable and supported in their work.
The peer review process needs to be viewed as an essential part of your FQHC’s overall health. This means that reviews need to be done with the utmost attention to detail and in a timely manner. Trust us, both you and your staff will see positive results in the long run.
At Peerspectiv, it’s our mission to take as much off your plate so you can provide the best patient care possible. So, maybe it’s about time you went external with your peer reviews.
Our processes are simple, easy, and repeatable, providing your staff with accurate, objective, and actionable feedback they can apply to their important work. Contact us today to learn how we can make your peer reviews simpler, faster, and more effective than ever.