CHICAGO — A coming change in the way hospitals are certified will hold medical institutions more responsible for providing quality care, the nation's largest hospital accreditation agency said Tuesday.
The new method will measure the quality of care that hospitals provide rather than their ability to provide it, said Dr. Dennis O'Leary, president of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals.
O'Leary said the Chicago-based agency will focus on such things as deaths in surgery, complication rates and other measures of medical outcome rather than on equipment and management.
The shift, to be phased in during the next six years, reflects a nationwide trend emphasizing results in medical care.
'The Next Step'
"Basically, the standards that have evolved over the years define a capacity or capability for providing quality health care, but they don't go the next step to ensure that that quality is provided to patients," O'Leary said.
"This new methodology permits us to ask better and better questions about the quality of care, and I think that's something our nation's hospitals and physicians are interested in," he said.
The American Medical Assn. and the American Hospital Assn. welcomed the change, saying it will help satisfy a demand by consumers and insurance companies for more in-depth information about the quality of hospital care.
"We support these . . . efforts to make the accreditation process more precise and more meaningful than it was in the past," said Dr. Alan Nelson, AMA board chairman.
"The American Hospital Assn. commends the initiative," spokeswoman Mary Babich said. "Maintaining the highest quality care is a continuing priority of the nation's hospitals."
The AMA, with 271,000 members, represents about 45% of U.S. physicians, Nelson said. The AHA represents about 90% of the nation's hospitals, Babich said.
The two associations are among the organizations that provide appointees to the joint commission, which accredits more than 80% of the nation's 6,000 acute-care hospitals and 2,500 other health care facilities, O'Leary said.