The commission that accredits most hospitals and clinics in the nation announced new rules Tuesday requiring health-care providers to report the results of their care.
The new rules are designed to boost the quality of health care Americans receive by making hospitals and other agencies more accountable, said Dennis O’Leary, president of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
“With medical costs going up, the public is demanding data about the results of care,” project director Deborah Nadzam said. “We want to make sure our accreditation process is as meaningful as possible.”
That process has come under criticism in recent years as lacking teeth, especially since hospitals pay most of the commission’s bills and nearly all of them achieve accreditation.
Kit Costello, president of the California Nurses Assn., said the new rules wouldn’t make much difference.
“It’s an absolute P.R. scam,” she said. “The joint commission is not a public agency. It’s a private, regulatory scheme. This does not protect the public.”
The joint commission is a private organization that inspects more than 80% of medical centers in the nation, representing 96% of all inpatient hospital admissions.
Under the program announced at a conference in San Diego of the Healthcare & Management Systems Society, hospitals and long-term care providers will be required to enroll in a measurement program and pick two areas of measurement--say the rates of caesarean-sections and newborn complications--by the end of the year.
They would begin submitting their data to the commission by the first quarter of 1999 and each quarter thereafter.
The project is designed to encourage health-care providers to use the data they collect to improve weak areas, O’Leary said.
“There’s a clear expectation of a demonstration of improvement,” he said. “Organizations will be placed in jeopardy if they’re not using the data to improve the quality of their care.”
Each year, the number of measurements will be increased until a full slate of performance data is achieved.
Health maintenance organizations, outpatient clinics and other providers will join the program a year later.
The costs associated with the new requirements are unknown, but Nadzam said they probably won’t be passed on to patients because many agencies are already measuring their performances in some capacity.
Asurvey conducted last year by the commission indicated that 70% of hospitals were already collecting performance measurement data, as were 33% of long-term care centers.
Eventually, the information will be entered on a database available to the public via the Internet and elsewhere, O’Leary said.