The credentialing and privileging systems of the Department of Veterans Affairs for doctors comes under heavy scrutiny in a new report from the Government Accountability Office.
In particular, the GAO calls out the high death rate at the VA medical center in Marion, Ill., where the patient deaths were more than four times higher than expected between October 2006 and March 2007.
The GAO's study, which encompassed six VA medical centers, found that the staff didn't consistently follow the VA's credentialing and privileging policies. Case in point: 29 of the 180 credentialing and privileging files reviewed lacked proper verification of state medical licensure, according to Larry Scott of VAWatchdog.org.
In addition, the GAO uncovered 21 files where necessary malpractice information was not shared. Also, four of the six medical centers visited failed to use protected physician performance information in the correct manner in privileging decisions.
"We identified deficiencies in credentialing, privileging, and continuous monitoring of physicians that suggest a lack of scrutiny in critical areas, such as awareness of physicians' experience with malpractice and experience in all states where physicians have practiced," the report reads. "The lack of compliance we found at the six VAMCs indicates that oversight of these activities needs heightened scrutiny at all levels."
The GAO recommended that the VA "systematically review" VAMC credentialing and privileging files, and to "document results of reviews and corrective actions at least annually."