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Peer Review Jul 14, 2023

What is Peer Review: Peer Review Bias and Inefficiency

What are peer review biases and what is the impact they have on a hospital's peer review process? Here's how external reviews mitigate this issue.

Peer review plays a vital role in evaluating clinician competence and ensuring high-quality patient care. However, the process is not without its limitations, and one significant challenge is the presence of bias. In a thought-provoking article, . This article delves into the impact of bias and proposing strategies to achieve more objective and unbiased assessments.


The Influence of Bias in Peer Review:

Dr. Husam Bader, an internal medicine physician at Monmouth Medical Center, explores the various forms of bias that can affect peer review in his article, Clinical peer review; a mandatory process with potential inherent bias in desperate need of reform. In it, he identifies several ways in which bias can manifest in peer review. Passive bias is one such factor, where limited visibility into the process makes it difficult for physicians and nurses to fully comprehend and contribute to the review. In a survey conducted by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Board of Governors, 36% of respondents believed that peer review is not free from bias. This lack of visibility, combined with high-stakes events, can contribute to a punitive atmosphere, where staff view the process as disciplinary rather than constructive feedback.

Another concerning aspect is workplace political bias, where the system can be exploited for personal gain. Instances of bad faith or sham reviews, where physicians maliciously request reviews to harm their colleagues, have been observed, with an estimated 10% or more reviews potentially falling into this category. Cognitive biases further exacerbate structural unfairness, with outcome and hindsight biases influencing how cases are evaluated when reviewers have prior knowledge of the outcome.

Addressing Bias through External Reviews:

To counteract these limitations and biases, external reviews present a viable solution. By bringing in independent professionals to assess the quality of patient care provided by healthcare facility staff, external reviews offer a fresh perspective and greater objectivity. These unbiased assessments help eliminate internal biases and provide more accurate and trustworthy evaluations.

Human biases have a detrimental impact on the integrity and accuracy of the peer review process. Political, passive, and cognitive biases can compromise the fairness and objectivity of assessments. It is imperative for healthcare organizations to identify and mitigate these biases to ensure the provision of the best possible care for patients. External reviews offer a promising avenue to achieve unbiased peer review, allowing for impartial assessments and driving quality improvement efforts. By prioritizing unbiased assessments, healthcare professionals can enhance the overall quality of care and uphold the core principle of patient-centric healthcare.


Interested in learning more about achieving unbiased peer review? Join our upcoming webinar and learn why top hospitals rely on Medplace for peer review.


Adrienne leads the Medplace clinical operations team and oversees the recruitment, onboarding, and training of the network. She holds over 30 years of experience in Medical ICU, Quality & Risk and Medical Malpractice Defense work.


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