I'm often asked (usually by hospice executives) how the performance of palliative medicine physicians can be best evaluated. What they're really asking is: how do I know if the hospice's investment in its medical staff is paying off? While there is no single, or simple, answer, there are ways. I find that most palliative care programs (including hospices) have only recently added to their medical staff (up to this point the majority of physicians practicing palliative medicine have been in part-time positions as hospice medical directors in the traditional sense), and so a strong need for an ongoing performance evaluation program has not been perceived.
But as palliative care organizations move toward a model that relies more on an expanded (and some would say progressive) role for physicians, performance management takes on greater importance.
To underscore this point, the Joint Commission recently introduced a standard named Ongoing Professional Practice Evaluation (OPPE). The intent of the standard is that organizations are looking at data on performance for all practitioners with privileges on an ongoing basis rather than at the two year reappointment process, to allow them to take steps to improve performance on a more timely basis. While this standard applies specifically to hospitals, hospices and palliative care programs should take note.