A longitudinal study of clinical peer review's impact on quality and safety in U.S. hospitals

J Healthc Manag. 2013 Sep-Oct;58(5):369-84; discussion 384-5.


Clinical peer review is the dominant method of event analysis in U.S. hospitals. It is pivotal to medical staff efforts to improve quality and safety, yet the quality assurance process model that has prevailed for the past 30 years evokes fear and is fundamentally antithetical to a culture of safety. Two prior national studies characterized a quality improvement model that corrects this dysfunction but failed to demonstrate progress toward its adoption despite a high rate of program change between 2007 and 2009. This study's online survey of 470 organizations participating in either of the prior studies further assessed relationships between clinical peer review program factors, including the degree of conformance to the quality improvement model (the QI model score), and subjectively measured program impact variables. Among the 300 hospitals (64%) that responded, the median QI model score was only 60 on a 100-point scale. Scores increased somewhat for the 2007 cohort (mean pair-wise difference of 5.9 [2-10]), but not for the 2009 cohort. The QI model is expanded as the result of the finding that self-reporting of adverse events, near misses, and hazardous conditions--an essential practice in high-reliability organizations--is no longer rare in hospitals. Self-reporting and the quality of case review are additional multivariate predictors of the perceived ongoing impact of clinical peer review on quality and safety, medical staff perceptions of the program, and medical staff engagement in quality and safety initiatives. Hospital leaders and trustees who seek to improve patient outcomes should facilitate the adoption of this best practice model for clinical peer review.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • Patient Safety*
  • Peer Review, Health Care*
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • United States