Utilization Review:

Information on External Review Organizations

HRD-93-22FS: Published: Nov 24, 1992. Publicly Released: Jan 6, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed utilization review organizations (URO), focusing on: (1) the size and ownership of URO; (2) the professional qualifications of staff involved in utilization review decisions; (3) the complexity of decisions made by various staff; (4) appeal procedures; (5) clinical review criteria used by URO; and (6) quality assurance procedures implemented to ensure adherence to company directives.

GAO found that: (1) physicians are usually employed by URO on a part-time basis or as consultants/advisors; (2) registered nurses are heavily involved in first-level review decisions, but physicians become more involved during the second-level review and appeal process; (3) URO generally used commercially developed review criteria when making recommendations; (4) most URO have established appeal procedures; (5) of the few utilization decisions that are appealed, many are successful; (6) URO have implemented quality assurance procedures to ensure adherence to company directives; (7) in 1990, a commission was established to develop quality assurance standards for URO and to accredit organizations that seek this distinction; (8) many URO set minimum qualifications and education levels for clinical and nonclinical staff; and (9) URO activities included prehospital admission certification review, concurrent reviews, second surgical opinions, and case management.

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