The ongoing scourge of medical malpractice in Florida is reason the state legislature and health care professionals established the Peer Review process, as outlined in F.S. 395.0193. It’s a means of identifying potential problem areas for individual physicians by having colleagues review their work, with the stated goal being improvement of patient care and reduction in medical and legal expenses.
However, one of the aspects of the peer review process, per section 8 of that statute, is that the investigations, proceedings and records of the peer review panel, a committee of a hospital board, disciplinary board, government board or agent of one of these “shall not be subject to discovery or introduction into evidence in any civil or administrative action against a provider of professional health services arising out of the matters which are the subject of evaluation and review…” In other words, if you file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a Florida doctor, the records contained in these peer review files – even if relevant – can’t be compelled. However, records pertaining to these cases from independent sources aren’t immune from discovery just because they were presented in peer review proceedings.
It can be frustrating as a patient who suffered a missed diagnosis, misdiagnosis or other medical error to know there are records that could help your case that you can’t use. However, as a recent case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court revealed, this immunity may not extend to each and all circumstances. Pennsylvania has a similar peer review process and statutory immunity to protect information gleaned in these proceedings. However, in Reginelli v. Boggs, the court held that the performance file developed by an independent contractor (one that provided staffing and administrative services for a hospital emergency room) were not protected under the state’s peer review statute. Continue reading