Reference Checks

A few years ago, we were asked to check the references on a physician being considered for a staff position with an area hospital. At the outset, it should be noted that all the references with whom we spoke were actual professional colleagues of the candidate while he was in private practice with them. All three reported that the candidate had a drug problem, that he was undergoing weekly psychiatric care, and that they would not practice medicine with him again under any circumstances. At most, one said, the candidate might be able to function as an ER physician, but only under very close supervision.

We submitted our report and, believe it or not, the hospital hired him anyway! Within six months the state police arrested the physician and led him from the hospital in handcuffs for writing phony prescriptions for huge amounts of amphetamines and barbiturates. I wanted to go see the hospital administrator, grab him by the tie, and shout, “We told you so! If you were going to ignore the information from his own references, why bother to have us check at all?”

While it was impossible to a price on the damage done to the hospital’s reputation in the community, the actual cost of ignoring the information in our reference report was in excess of $150,000.