The Oxford Dictionary defines peer review as “a judgment on a piece of scientific or other professional work by others working in the same area.” It is a commonly used procedure with a variety of scientific and medical matters.
Florida’s workers’ compensation statutes are located in Chapter 440. Peer review is referenced at section 440.13(1)(o) as follows:
“Peer review” means an evaluation by two or more physicians licensed under the same authority and with the same or similar specialty as the physician under review, of the appropriateness, quality, and cost of health care and health services provided to a patient, based on medically accepted standards.
There is little other jurisprudential instruction to explain the pertinence of peer review in workers’ compensation cases.
Last week I received a “Peer Review” report from a doctor hired by the workers’ compensation insurance company in one of our cases. In the doctor’s opinion, a shoulder surgery recommended by our client’s authorized doctor “does not meet established treatment standards of medical necessity.” The peer review report was generated in response to a Petition for Benefits we had filed seeking authorization of the surgery. A few days later the workers’ compensation carrier filed a formal response to the Petition for Benefits in which it agreed to authorize the surgery. This is not the first time I’ve experienced a similar about-face involving peer review.
I don’t know why the carrier went to the trouble and expense of this so-called peer review. First, the statute requires the review to be done by “two or more physicians.” This review was done by one physician. Next, while 440.13(r) and (s) express an interest in “Utilization control” and “Utilization review,” neither the statute nor case law instruct how or even whether peer review functions to address utilization concerns or disputed medical benefits.