Tag Archives: joint commission

AHCJ urges Joint Commission to release inspection results

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The Association of Health Care Journalists has called upon The Joint Commission to make public its hospital accreditation surveys and complaint reports.

In a letter to the agency sent last week (PDF), AHCJ president Charles Ornstein noted that some consumers can obtain hospital inspection reports while others cannot, depending on where they live and which organization or regulator did the survey.

State licensing agencies and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services consider the results of their inspections to be public record. But the Joint Commission does not release details on inspections it performs.

“This peculiar patchwork system treats consumers unequally and leaves millions in the dark about the performance of their local hospitals,” Ornstein wrote to Joint Commission president Mark Chassin, M.D.

AHCJ’s letter follows an effort by a group of consumer organizations to change the law to make inspections public.

“I urge the commission to take the lead on this issue, and demonstrate your commitment to transparency, by voluntarily opening these records to the public,” Ornstein wrote.

The Joint Commission said it has received AHCJ’s letter and is reviewing it.

Groups push for transparency in Joint Commission’s hospital accreditation surveys

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Lexington Herald-Leader‘s Jim Warren reports that about 50 advocacy groups, including the Consumers Union and Mothers against Medical Error, have joined forces to ask Congress to make the survey data behind hospital accreditation freely available to the public.

Their main target is The Joint Commission, a non-profit group that sets performance standards and is hired by hospitals and other health-care organizations to measure whether they meet those standards. In many states, Joint Commission accreditation is the basis for hospital licensure. It conducts extensive surveys every three years or so, and funds its efforts by charging hospitals upward of $45,000 for the privilege of being evaluated.

The Joint Commission’s disclosure practices last made headlines in January when, in response to pressure from AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, it made accreditation information more readily available online.

For help finding and understanding Joint Commission reports and similar sources, AHCJ members can check out board president Charles Ornstein’s latest guide to Deciphering Hospital Quality Data, in which he addresses the strengths and weaknesses of myriad data sources and provides pointers on how to access and utilize them.

Series reveals gaps in communication of hospital inspection results

Jodie Jackson Jr. of the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune took an in-depth look at patient safety at University Hospital, part of the University of Missouri Health Care system.

Jackson found that inspections, by CMS and the FDA, have repeatedly turned up systemic practices that compromised patient safety. At the same time, the Joint Commission awarded the hospital a full accreditation, raising questions about why the agencies don’t share information.

In a blog post, Jackson, a Midwest Health Journalism Program Fellow, says he has “examined some 700 pages of documents and have had national infection control leaders examine the reports that formed the basis for the series.”

Joint Commission makes more accreditation details available on website

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Angie C. Marek, a member of AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, contributed this update.

The Joint Commission, the largest nonprofit organization to accredit hospitals in the United States, has improved the quality of information available to consumers and journalists on its website. joint-commission In response to a request by AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, the agency has made it easy to tell whether a facility has recently lost accreditation or is in danger of losing it.

In the site’s Quality Check section, the search page now has a filter allowing viewers to select “Type of accreditation.” (The filter only appears in areas where there are hospitals that are not fully accredited.) Previously, to find hospitals with less-than-full accreditation, users had to examine each hospital’s record individually. Now the few that have not met standards can be quickly located.

“We’re pleased that the Joint Commission responded to our suggestion to make its website more useful,” said Charles Ornstein, president of AHCJ’s board of directors.  “Reporters and consumers will now find it somewhat easier to learn about the institutions to which they entrust their health.”

Read more about the changes …

Doctors certified to use strokebuster don’t

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s John Fauber used data from the Joint Commission to discover that a clot-busting drug that could help patients mid-stroke is not being used in between 30 percent and 60 percent of the situations in which it should be effective. It’s a meaty story package, rich in background and context. As always, Fauber did his homework.

The clot-dissolving agent, known as tissue plasminogen activator, or t-PA, is the only approved drug for treating a stroke by stopping it and significantly reducing the risk of disability.

blocked-artery

Image from gandhiji40 via Flickr

Yet the number of patients who get t-PA has remained dismally low, about 5% of all stroke patients, ever since the drug was approved 14 years ago. Much of that is because patients fail to recognize their symptoms and get to the hospital within the 4 ½ -hour window during which the drug can be administered.

Fauber writes that part of physicians’ reluctance to deploy t-PA can be attributed to built-in financial disincentives. In a small number of cases it can cause bleeding that might attract malpractice lawsuits, and it’s reimbursed at as low as $200 a use.

As a weird offshoot from this incentivization, Fauber found that the “Primary Stroke Center” certification has enough cachet that physicians while go through the motions of t-PA certification just to get the fancy label, yet have no intention of really using the drug.

AHCJ: Joint Commission site obscures information

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

In a letter to Mark R. Chassin , M.D.,  the Joint Commission‘s president and CEO, the Association of Health Care Journalists has suggested improvements to the commission’s Quality Check Web site, where many people go to find out whether to trust their local hospital.

The Web site also is a potentially useful tool for health-care journalists. “In a time of change in health care, the ability to do comprehensive research on local hospitals is more important than ever before,” the association’s letter said.

Among the problems identified:

  • Hospitals with any level of accreditation are given “The Gold Seal of Approval” – even those whose accreditation is conditional or at risk of being denied.
  • It’s difficult to find out which hospitals in a given region have less-than-full accreditation. To check on a hospital’s accreditation status, one has to open each individual profile. The Joint Commission once had a mechanism to sort hospitals by accreditation status, but that is no longer available.
  • After a hospital loses accreditation, its past Accreditation Quality Reports are eventually removed from the site, leaving only the facility’s name with no historical record.
  • There is no easy way to do a side-by-side comparison of more than six facilities simultaneously.

“The organization that accredits hospitals around the country, and voices support for transparency about hospital quality, has a Web site that obscures the reality of many hospitals’ performance,” said Charles Ornstein, AHCJ president.

Read  more about AHCJ’s letter to the Joint Commission.