AAOS Bulletin - August, 2005

Professional Compliance Program debuts grievance application

By Kathleen Delaney

AAOS fellows and members now have a way to file formal grievances under the newly adopted AAOS Professional Compliance Program. Access to the prototype Grievance Application Form 1.0 is available through the Professional Compliance Program Web site. Fellows and members who are considering filing a grievance are encouraged to review the form and the information on how it should be submitted.

Scope of program

The Bylaw amendments that established the Professional Compliance Program (effective April 18, 2005) were overwhelmingly adopted by a fellowship vote after the 2005 Annual Meeting. In addition, the Standards of Professionalism (SOPs) that were also adopted established mandatory minimum levels of acceptable conduct for all AAOS fellows and members in the three areas: Providing Musculoskeletal Services to Patients; Professional Relationships, and Orthopaedic Expert Witness Testimony.

Allegations that a fellow or member has violated the SOPs may serve as the basis for a formal grievance to AAOS. The Professional Compliance Program is precluded from investigating matters that occurred prior to the effective date of April 18, 2005, or matters that are not yet finalized within the civil or administrative review process.

Under the Professional Compliance Program, two new committees will review, hear, and adjudicate allegations of violations of the SOPs. The Committee on Professionalism (COP), chaired by Peter J. Mandell, MD, will conduct the initial grievance review and determine whether a hearing will be held. The Judiciary Committee, chaired by Richard D. Schmidt, MD, will hear appeals of recommendations made by the COP. Both the COP and the Judiciary Committee will make recommendations to the Board of Directors, which is the sole body authorized to take professional compliance action against a fellow or member.

In June, the Board of Directors appointed seven members to the COP and four members to the Judiciary Committee. Training for these new committee members is scheduled in Rosemont, Ill., during August.

Watch your mail

In the coming weeks, AAOS will mail each fellow and member a booklet containing the SOPs as well as a chart that details the process for investigating, hearing and adjudicating formal grievances. The booklet also will include the AAOS Code of Medical Ethics and Professionalism for Orthopaedic Surgeons, which continues to serve as an aspirational ethical guide.

Expert Witness Affirmation Statements

The AAOS Expert Witness Affirmation Statement continues to be an important component of the AAOS Expert Witness Program. Fellows and members submit signed Expert Witness Affirmation Statements daily for inclusion in the online database. In addition, fellows and members continue to encourage their colleagues to sign the Affirmation Statement at state orthopaedic society meetings and other orthopaedic venues.

To date, nearly 6,500 signed Affirmation Statements have been entered into the AAOS database and files. Fellows and members who have not yet signed it can do so, by printing it out, completing and signing it and mailing or faxing it back. The Expert Witness Affirmation Statement is available online (password protected).

Unlike SOPs, which are mandatory for all fellows and members, signing the AAOS Expert Witness Affirmation Statement is a voluntary, public acknowledgement of an orthopaedist’s duties when testifying on behalf of a plaintiff or a defendant. Fellows and members may be questioned during depositions or court proceedings about whether or not they have signed the Expert Witness Affirmation Statement.

The AAOS honors written requests from fellows and members as well as from attorneys for both plaintiffs and defendants for copies of signed Expert Witness Affirmation Statements. Since the program’s inception, AAOS has responded to more than 250 requests for signed Expert Witness Affirmation Statements from fellows, members and counsel.

Additional information about the Professional Compliance Program, SOPs, Grievance Application, and the Expert Witness Affirmation Statement is available online.

Kathleen Delaney is the adminstrator for the AAOS Expert Witness and Professional Compliance Programs. Direct questions to aaosexpertwitness@aaos.orgor professionalcompliance@aaos.org, or call (847) 384-4047.

AAOS to sponsor Expert Witness CME course

The AAOS will sponsor its first CME course focusing exclusively on expert witness testimony, on Oct. 27 in Las Vegas. Under course director J. Mark Melhorn, MD, “Expert Witness: Tips and Insights for the Orthopaedist” will cover a variety of medico-legal topics, with a particular focus on the orthopaedist as expert witness. After attending this half-day course, participants will be better able to:

    • Evaluate the merits of a medical malpractice case

    • Prepare expert witness testimony based on evidenced-based literature

    • Understand the ‘standards of evidence’ used by judges

    • Apply the AAOS Standards of Professionalism to activities involving expert witness testimony

The course is being offered in conjunction with the “7th Annual Occupational Orthopaedic and Workers’ Compensation Course: A Multidisciplinary Perspective.” AAOS offers a discount to attendees who register for both CME courses. Additional information and registration for these courses is available online.

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