Health care providers are generally familiar with the doctor-patient privilege, which protects information exchanged between a physician and a patient for the purposes of rendering or receiving health care services. 1 The statutory peer review privilege is similar, except it protects communications between health care providers who are engaged in the review and critique of both specific and general elements of health care with the overall goal of health care improvement. 2 This Article will explore what peer review is, why it needs to be preserved, the basic elements of peer review protection, and how to prepare and defend a privilege log under the new State ex rel. Wheeling Hospital., Inc. v. Wilson 3 decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.
Peer review is the process by which doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers review the performance of other doctors and health care providers. 4 The earliest known peer review can be traced to the American College of Surgeons. 5 In 1919, the College sought to standardize hospitals, organize medical staffs, and set minimum standards. 6 In the early 20th century, peer review was developed “as a way to review the quality of the care rendered by physicians and surgeons.” 7 It became a requirement in 1952 for “hospitals to perform peer review to qualify for accreditation.” 8 “[P]eer review developed into the primary method of evaluating the quality of physician services at . . . hospital[s] . . . .” 9