38 CFR § 17.501 - Confidential and privileged documents.
(a) Documents and parts of documents are considered confidential and privileged if they were produced by or for the VA in the process of conducting systematic healthcare reviews for the purpose of improving the quality of health care or improving the utilization of healthcare resources in VA healthcare facilities and meet the criteria in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section. The four classes of healthcare quality assurance reviews with examples are:
(1) Monitoring and evaluation reviews conducted by a facility:
(i) Medical records reviews,
(ii) Drug usage evaluations,
(iii) Blood usage reviews,
(iv) Surgical case/invasive procedure reviews,
(v) Service and program monitoring including monitoring performed by individual services or programs, several services or programs working together, or individuals from several services or programs working together as a team,
(vi) Mortality and morbidity reviews,
(vii) Infection control review and surveillance,
(viii) Occurrence screening,
(ix) Tort claims peer reviews (except reviews performed to satisfy the requirements of a governmental body or a professional health care organization which is licensing practitioners or monitoring their professional performance),
(x) Admission and continued stay reviews,
(xi) Diagnostic studies utilization reviews,
(xii) Reports of special incidents (VA Form 10-2633 or similar forms) and follow-up documents unless developed during or as a result of a Board of Investigation;
(2) Focused reviews which address specific issues or incidents and which are designated by the reviewing office at the outset of the review as protected by 38 U.S.C. 5705 and the regulations in §§ 17.500 through 17.511; focused reviews may be either:
(i) Facility focused reviews;
(ii) VA Central Office or Regional focused reviews;
(3) VA Central Office or Regional general oversight reviews to assess facility compliance with VA program requirements if the reviews are designated by the reviewing office at the outset of the review as protected by 38 U.S.C. 5705 and the regulations in §§ 17.500 through 17.511; and
(b) The Under Secretary for Health, Regional Director or facility Director will describe in advance in writing those quality assurance activities included under the classes of healthcare quality assurance reviews listed in paragraph (a) of this section. Only documents and parts of documents resulting from those activities which have been so described are protected by 38 U.S.C. 5705 and the regulations in §§ 17.500 through 17.511. If an activity is not described in a VA Central Office or Regional policy document, this requirement may be satisfied at the facility level by description in advance of the activity and its designation as protected in the facility quality assurance plan or other policy document.
(c) Documents and parts of documents generated by activities which meet the criteria in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section shall be confidential and privileged only if they:
(1) Identify, either implicitly or explicitly, individual practitioners, patients, or reviewers except as provided in paragraph (g)(6) of this section; or
(2) Contain discussions relating to the quality of VA medical care or utilization of VA medical resources by healthcare evaluators during the course of a review of quality assurance information or data, even if they do not identify practitioners, patients, or reviewers; or
(3) Are individual committee, service, or study team minutes, notes, reports, memoranda, or other documents either produced by healthcare evaluators in deliberating on the findings of healthcare reviews, or prepared for purposes of discussion or consideration by healthcare evaluators during a quality assurance review; or
(4) Are memoranda, letters, or other documents from the medical facility to the Regional Director or VA Central Office which contain information generated by a quality assurance activity meeting the criteria in § 17.501 (a) and (b); or
(5) Are memoranda, letters, or other documents produced by the Regional Director or VA Central Office which either respond to or contain information generated by a quality assurance activity meeting the criteria in § 17.501 (a) and (b).
(d) Documents which meet the criteria in this section are confidential and privileged whether they are produced at the medical facility, Regional or VA Central Office levels, or by external contractors performing healthcare quality assurance reviews.
(e) Documents which are confidential and privileged may be in written, computer, electronic, photographic or any other form.
(f) Documents which contain confidential and privileged material in one part, but not in others, such as Clinical Executive Board minutes, should be filed and maintained as if the entire document was protected by 38 U.S.C. 5705. This is not required if the confidential and privileged material is deleted.
(g) The following records and documents and parts of records and documents are not confidential even if they meet the criteria in paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section:
(1) Statistical information regarding VA healthcare programs or activities that does not implicitly or explicitly identify individual VA patients or VA employees or individuals involved in the quality assurance process;
(2) Summary documents or records which only identify study topics, the period of time covered by the study, criteria, norms, and/or major overall findings, but which do not identify individual healthcare practitioners, even by implication;
(4) Records and documents developed during or as a result of Boards of Investigations;
(5) Completed patient satisfaction survey questionnaires and findings from patient satisfaction surveys;
(6) Records and documents which only indicate the number of patients treated by a practitioner, either by diagnosis or in aggregate, or number of procedures performed by a practitioner, either by procedure or in aggregate;
(7) Records and documents developed during or as a result of reviews performed to satisfy the requirements of a governmental body or a professional healthcare organization which is licensing practitioners or monitoring their professional performance, e.g., National Practitioner Data Bank, Federation of State Medical Boards, and National Council of State Boards of Nursing;
(8) Documents and reports developed during or as a result of site visits by the Office of the Medical Inspector except to the extent that the documents and reports contain information that meets the criteria described in this section and are produced by or for VA by other than the Office of Medical Inspector;
(9) External reviews conducted by VA Central Office or a Region other than those designated by the reviewing office under paragraph (a)(2) or (a)(3) of this section as protected by 38 U.S.C. 5705 and the regulations in §§ 17.500 through 17.511;
(10) Documents and reports of Professional Standards Boards, Credentialing Committees, Executive Committees of Medical Staff, and similar bodies, insofar as the documents relate to the credentialing and privileging of practitioners;
(11) Documents and reports developed during or as a result of data validation activities;
(12) Documents and reports developed during or as a result of occupational health monitoring;
(13) Documents and reports developed during or as a result of safety monitoring not directly related to the care of specified individual patients;
(14) Documents and reports developed during or as a result of resource management activities not directly related to the care of specified individual patients; and
(15) Information and records derived from patient medical records or facility administrative records, which are not protected by 38 U.S.C. 5705 and the regulations in §§ 17.500 through 17.511, may be sent or communicated to a third party payor who has asked for this information in response to a VA request for reimbursement based on Public Law 99-272 and Public Law 101-508. Reviews conducted at the request of the third party payor do not generate records protected by 38 U.S.C. 5705 and the regulations in §§ 17.500 through 17.511 since the reviews are not undertaken as part of the VA's quality assurance program.