PA Supreme Court Restores Medical Peer Review Protection It Had Taken Away

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a favorable decision in Leadbitter v. Keystone Anesthesia Consultants, overturning a lower court’s ruling as it pertains to the scope of the Pennsylvania Peer Review Protection Act (PRPA). The case centered on whether or not the PRPA and the federal Health Care Quality Improvement Act protect certain portions of a physician’s credentialing file from disclosure.

This decision was a victory for PCCJR and health care providers who had filed amicus briefs (friend of the court briefs) in the case.

A prior state Superior Court ruling drew an artificial distinction between the activities of hospital credentialing committees and the “review committees” protected by PRPA, which grants confidentiality to peer-review data in the medical context to foster candor and ultimately improve the quality of health care.

On appeal to the state Supreme Court, PCCJR filed an amicus brief highlighting the necessity and importance of peer review in the medical profession in both the credentialing process and as a way of establishing critical standards of quality within the healthcare industry. The brief argued that the underlying Superior Court’s decision “erodes the privilege afforded to peer review to the point off rendering it a nullity” and urged the State Supreme Court to issue a reversal.

In its unanimous decision overturning the lower court’s ruling, the Supreme Court noted: “We answer the questions presented as follows: (1) a hospital’s credentials committee qualifies as a “review committee” for purposes of Section 4 of the Peer Review Protection Act to the extent it undertakes peer review; and (2) the federal Health Care Quality Improvement Act protects from disclosure the responses given by the National Practitioner Data Bank to queries submitted to it – and this protection exists regardless of any contrary aspect of state law.”

This ruling is a victory for health care and also for the protection of peer-review information from discovery in litigation.

Justice Thomas Saylor authored the Court’s opinion and Justice David Wecht issued a concurring opinion.

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