As used in this article:
“Health care professionals” means individuals who are licensed to practice in any health care field and individuals, who, because of their education, experience or training participate as members of or consultants to a review organization.
“Peer review” means the procedure for evaluation by health care professionals of the quality and efficiency of services ordered or performed by other health care professionals, including practice analysis, inpatient hospital and extended care facility utilization review, medical audit, ambulatory care review, claims review and patient safety review.
“Professional society” includes medical, psychological, nursing, dental, optometric, pharmaceutical, chiropractic and podiatric organizations having as members at least a majority of the eligible licentiates in the area or health care facility or agency served by the particular organization.
“Review organization” means any committee or organization engaging in peer review, including a hospital utilization review committee, a hospital tissue committee, a medical audit committee, a health insurance review committee, a health maintenance organization review committee, hospital, medical, dental and health service corporation review committee, a hospital plan corporation review committee, a professional health service plan review committee or organization, a dental review committee, a physicians' advisory committee, a podiatry advisory committee, a nursing advisory committee, any committee or organization established pursuant to a medical assistance program, the joint commission on accreditation of health care organizations or similar accrediting body or any entity established by such accrediting body or to fulfill the requirements of such accrediting body, any entity established pursuant to state or federal law for peer review purposes, and any committee established by one or more state or local professional societies or institutes, to gather and review information relating to the care and treatment of patients for the purposes of: (i) Evaluating and improving the quality of health care rendered; (ii) reducing morbidity or mortality; or (iii) establishing and enforcing guidelines designed to keep within reasonable bounds the cost of health care. It shall also mean any hospital board committee or organization reviewing the professional qualifications or activities of its medical staff or applicants for admission thereto, and any professional standards review organizations established or required under state or federal statutes or regulations.
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person providing information to any review organization shall be held, by reason of having provided such information, to be civilly liable under any law, unless:
(1) Such information is unrelated to the performance of the duties and functions of such review organization, or (2) such information is false and the person providing such information knew, or had reason to believe, that such information was false.
(b) A review organization or any member, agent or employee thereof who, in the absence of malice and gross negligence, acts upon or furnishes counsel, services or information to a review organization shall be immune from liability for loss or injury to the person whose activities are being reviewed.
The proceedings and records of a review organization shall be confidential and privileged and shall not be subject to subpoena or discovery proceedings or be admitted as evidence in any civil action arising out of the matters which are subject to evaluation and review by such organization and no person who was in attendance at a meeting of such organization shall be permitted or required to testify in any such civil action as to any evidence or other matters produced or presented during the proceedings of such organization or as to any findings, recommendations, evaluations, opinions or other actions of such organization or any members thereof: Provided, That information, documents or records otherwise available from original sources are not to be construed as immune from discovery or use in any civil action merely because they were presented during proceedings of such organization, nor should any person who testifies before such organization or who is a member of such organization be prevented from testifying as to matters within his knowledge, but the witness shall not be asked about his testimony before such an organization or opinions formed by him as a result of said organization hearings: Provided, however, That an individual may execute a valid waiver authorizing the release of the contents of his file pertaining to his own acts or omissions, and such waiver shall remove the confidentiality and privilege of said contents otherwise provided by this section: Provided further, That upon further review by any other review organization, upon judicial review of any finding or determination of a review organization or in any civil action filed by an individual whose activities have been reviewed, any testimony, documents, proceedings, records and other evidence adduced before any such review organization shall be available to such further review organization, the court and the individual whose activities have been reviewed. The court shall enter such protective orders as may be appropriate to provide for the confidentiality of the records provided the court by a review organization and all papers and records relating to the proceedings had before the reviewing court.
Any party or parties who institute an action as a result of a peer review may be liable for court costs and reasonable attorney's fees, if the defendant substantially prevails and if the action, or the plaintiff's conduct during the litigation of the action, was frivolous, unreasonable, without foundation, or in bad faith.