2017 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 146. Miscellaneous health provisions.
146.38 Health care services review; confidentiality of information.

Universal Citation: WI Stat § 146.38 (2017)

146.38 Health care services review; confidentiality of information.

(1) In this section:

(a) “Evaluator" means a medical director or a registered nurse who coordinates review of an emergency medical services program of a health care provider.

(b) “Health care provider" means any of the following:

1. A person specified in s. 146.81 (1) (a) to (hp), (r), or (s).

2. A facility, association, or business entity, as specified in s. 146.81 (1) (i) to (q) and including a residential care apartment complex, as defined in s. 50.01 (6d).

3. A person working under the supervision of or in collaboration with a person specified in subd. 1.

4. A parent, subsidiary, or affiliate organization of a facility, association, or business entity, as specified in subd. 2.

(bm) “Incident or occurrence report" means a written or oral statement that is made to notify a person, organization, or an evaluator who reviews or evaluates the services of health care providers or charges for such services of an incident, practice, or other situation that becomes the subject of such a review or evaluation.

(c) “Medical director" has the meaning specified in s. 256.01 (11).

(1m) No person who participates in the review or evaluation of the services of health care providers or charges for such services may disclose an incident or occurrence report or any information acquired in connection with such review or evaluation except as provided in sub. (3) or (3m).

(2) All persons, organizations, or evaluators, whether from one or more entities, who review or evaluate the services of health care providers in order to help improve the quality of health care, to avoid improper utilization of the services of health care providers, or to determine the reasonable charges for such services shall keep a record of their investigations, inquiries, proceedings and conclusions. No such record may be released to any person under s. 804.10 (4) or otherwise except as provided in sub. (3) or (3m). No such record may be used in any civil or criminal action against the health care provider or any other health care provider; however, except for incident or occurrence reports or records from other persons, organizations, or evaluators reviewing or evaluating health care providers, information, documents or records presented during the review or evaluation may not be construed as immune from discovery under s. 804.10 (4) or use in any civil or criminal action merely because they were so presented. Any person who testifies during or participates in the review or evaluation may testify in any civil or criminal action as to matters within his or her knowledge, but may not testify as to information obtained through his or her participation in the review or evaluation, nor as to any conclusion of such review or evaluation.

(2m) An incident or occurrence report may not be used in any civil or criminal action against a health care provider.

(3) Information acquired in connection with the review and evaluation of health care services shall be disclosed and records of such review and evaluation shall be released, with the identity of any patient whose treatment is reviewed being withheld except as permitted under s. 146.82, in the following circumstances:

(a) To the health care provider whose services are being reviewed or evaluated, upon the request of such provider;

(b) To any person with the consent of the health care provider whose services are being reviewed or evaluated;

(c) To the person requesting the review or evaluation, for use solely for the purpose of improving the quality of health care, avoiding the improper utilization of the services of health care providers, and determining the reasonable charges for such services;

(dm) With regard to an action under s. 895.441, to a court of record after issuance of a subpoena; and

(f) To the appropriate examining or licensing board or agency, when the organization or evaluator conducting the review or evaluation determines that such action is advisable.

(3m)

(a) Information acquired in connection with the review and evaluation of health care services may be disclosed, and records of such review and evaluation may be released, in statistical form with the consent of the person authorizing or with the authority to authorize the review or evaluation. Information disclosed or records released under this subsection shall not reveal the identity of any patient except as permitted under s. 146.82.

(b) Information acquired in connection with the review or evaluation of health care services may be disclosed, and the records of such a review or evaluation released, to any of the following persons, with the consent of the person authorizing or with the authority to authorize the review or evaluation:

1. The employer of a health care provider, as defined in sub. (1) (b) 1. and 3.

2. The parent, subsidiary, or affiliate organization of a health care provider, as defined in sub. (1) (b) 2.

3. The parent, subsidiary, or affiliate organization of the employer of a health care provider, as defined in sub. (1) (b) 1. and 3.

(3t) A record described under sub. (2) or an incident or occurrence report disclosed either under sub. (3) or (3m) or in violation of this section remains confidential and may not be used in any civil or criminal action against the health care provider or any other health care provider.

(4) Any person who discloses information or releases a record in violation of this section, other than through a good faith mistake, is civilly liable therefor to any person harmed by the disclosure or release.

(5) This section does not apply to s. 256.25.

(6) Health care provider specific information acquired by an administrative agency in order to help improve the quality of health care, to avoid the improper utilization of services of health care providers, or to determine the reasonable charges for health care services is exempt from inspection, copying, or receipt under s. 19.35 (1).

History: 1975 c. 187; 1979 c. 89; 1983 a. 27; 1989 a. 102; 1991 a. 217; 1999 a. 56; 2005 a. 155, 315; 2007 a. 130; 2011 a. 2, 32; 2013 a. 165 s. 114; 2013 a. 166.

The conclusions of a hospital governing body, based on records and conclusions of peer review committees, were not privileged under this section. Good Samaritan Hospital v. Moroney, 123 Wis. 2d 89, 365 N.W.2d 887 (Ct. App. 1984).

The methodology for determining privileged records under sub. (2) is outlined. Franzen v. Children's Hospital, 169 Wis. 2d 366, 485 N.W.2d 603 (Ct. App. 1992).

The methodology for determining privileged communications under sub. (1m) is discussed. Mallon v. Campbell, 178 Wis. 2d 278, 504 N.W.2d 357 (Ct. App. 1993).

Because this section does not provide for the loss of confidentiality due to disclosure to third parties, no waiver exists under this section. Ollman v. Health Care Liability Ins. Co. 178 Wis. 2d 648, 505 N.W.2d 399 (Ct. App. 1993).

Statistical data regarding a hospital's rates of infection for postoperative patients qualifies as a report in statistical form under sub. (3) (d), 1999 stats., and was subject to discovery. A court need not conduct an in camera inspection to determine if material sought may be released when there is a request for information that on its face is clearly protected by this section. Braverman v. Columbia Hospital, Inc. 2001 WI App 106, 244 Wis. 2d 98, 629 N.W.2d 66, 00-0901.

The department of health and family services is a person subject to restrictions under sub. (1m) regarding the release of information. Braverman v. Columbia Hospital, Inc. 2001 WI App 106, 244 Wis. 2d 98, 629 N.W.2d 66, 00-0901.

Site reviews by associations to which local hospitals voluntarily submit for review in order to improve the quality of health care services constitutes peer review, the discovery of which is barred by this section. Hofflander v. St. Catherine's Hospital, Inc. 2003 WI 77, 262 Wis. 2d 539, 664 N.W.2d 545, 00-2467.

The party asserting the health care services review privilege under sub. (1m) bears the burden of establishing 2 conditions: 1) the investigation must be part of a program organized and operated to improve the quality of health care at the hospital, and 2) the person conducting the investigation must be acting on behalf of, or as part of a group with relatively constant membership, officers, a purpose, and a set of regulations. The privilege did not apply to an investigation conducted by an individual doctor, and not the hospital's peer review committee, that was initiated by the hospital to report a problem to the supervisor of the residency program in which the defendant resident was enrolled, and not to improve the quality of health care at the hospital. Phelps v. Physicians Insurance Company of Wisconsin, Inc. 2005 WI 85, 282 Wis. 2d 69, 698 N.W.2d 643, 03-0580.

A health care provider cannot rely on this section, conferring a “peer review privilege,” to withhold documents that are relevant to a federal investigation. Because participants in peer review already expect that peer-review materials may be disclosed in certain circumstances, there appears to be nothing to be gained by recognizing the privilege in the limited circumstances presented by this case. United States v. Aurora Health Care, Inc. 91 F. Supp. 3d 1066 (2015).

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