Joint Commission finds improved hospital quality

The latest report from The Joint Commission, a hospital accrediting organization, finds that “overall, hospitals are following evidence-based standards for treatment of myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia,” as MedPage Today reports.

The report, which looks at 31 evidence-based measures, did find decreases in two areas: measuring oxygen in blood for pneumonia patients and administering antibiotics to pneumonia patients in the intensive care unit within 24 hours.

The report, “Improving America’s Hospitals: The Joint Commission’s Annual Report on Quality and Safety 2009,” (PDF) and those from three previous years are available on the commission’s Web site. Among the key findings:

  1. Hospitals accredited by The Joint Commission have significantly improved the quality of care provided to heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia patients over a seven-year period.
  2. Hospitals have steadily improved on individual surgical care performance measures – as well as on additional individual heart attack and pneumonia care measures – over a two-, three- or four-year period.
  3. Hospital performance on two individual measures of quality relating to inpatient care for childhood asthma is excellent after only one year of measurement.
  4. Improvement is still needed.
  5. Where a patient receives care makes a difference.

As ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein explains in his tip sheet, The Joint Commission does routine inspections of participating hospitals to ensure they meet the standards required for accreditation. It compiles public reports on each hospital, which are available on the Web site. These reports include the hospital’s accreditation status, as well as some data on hospital outcomes and practices.

It does not release its detailed inspection reports to the public, and many states’ open records laws specifically exempt the reports from public disclosure. In the past, these inspections have not been surprises, and the group has been faulted for being slow to act against hospitals with problems Also, The Joint Commission rarely takes punitive steps against hospitals, preferring to work with them to improve.

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