A top executive of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has resigned, leaving a critical post to be filled at a time when several major initiatives were getting started under his direction.
William F. Jessee, M.D., 47, vice president for research and standards, informed the JCAHO's board of commissioners of his resignation on March 18 at the start of a weekend retreat, said Cathy Barry-Ipema, JCAHO communications director. She said Dr. Jessee had submitted his resignation Feb. 28 to President Dennis O'Leary, M.D.
The departure, effective June 30, is the latest in a series of executive turnover at the JCAHO, a situation Dr. Jessee had been brought in to ease when he rejoined the commission in April 1993 after a two-year hiatus.
A JCAHO executive from 1986 to 1991, Dr. Jessee left the first time to become vice president for quality management at Humana's Louisville, Ky., headquarters. He said he "came back basically to help Dennis out" in April 1993 because of turnover in upper-level executive positions.
He planned to keep his home in Louisville and commute to the JCAHO in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. "I gave it a fair trial and, after a year, decided it was a little too much wear and ear," he said.
Dr. Jessee said he was brought in to help launch the IMSystem, an indicator monitoring initiative; implement the refocused standards for hospital accreditation in conjunction with the JCAHO's Agenda for Change; and develop a new accreditation program for healthcare networks.
He also spent much of his time on the road advancing the commission's quality-measurement initiatives at the state level, where he said healthcare reform was becoming more important.
Dr. Jessee said he would consider several pending job offers as well as the possibility of starting his own business.
Other departures of key JCAHO executives in the past year include:
James Roberts, M.D., who resigned in April 1993 as senior vice president to become senior vice president for clinical affairs at Voluntary Hospitals of America.
Richard White, who resigned in November 1993 as the JCAHO's director of indicator research development.
Nancy Noie, who resigned in January as senior director of government and professional relations. She previously was the JCAHO's vice president for marketing and external affairs.
Kenneth Hermann, who resigned in January as the JCAHO's vice president of accreditation services.
In a Feb. 9 memorandum to the 28-member JCAHO board and to heads of the JCAHO's five sponsoring provider organizations, Dr. O'Leary offered several explanations for the turnover. He said the pace of organizational change at the JCAHO had accelerated along with the job descriptions and expectations of senior and middle managers. He also cited job stress as a factor.
"The number of personnel changes at the Joint Commission during the past year is certainly higher than in previous years. But the absolute number of these changes is not large and is relatively typical for an organization undergoing this degree of transition," Dr. O'Leary said in the memo.
In other JCAHO news, the hospital associations of Connecticut and Oklahoma have become the first two state associations to endorse the IMSystem and agree to promote its use to their hospital memberships.
As so-called "quality partners" in the system, the two groups agreed to solicit hospital participation in the system through direct-mail campaigns and member publications.
The Oklahoma association has 140 members. The Connecticut group has 31.
In other matters, the JCAHO sent letters to the 5,300 hospitals it accredits, responding to issues raised in the first part of MODERN HEALTHCARE's two-part series on the JCAHO. The first part addressed the acceptance of the IMSystem by hospitals and the business sector, the usefulness of the system in improving care and several financial issues (March 14, p. 30). The second part, which addresses the JCAHO's role in health reform, appears in this issue (See p. 34).
In the March 18 letter, the JCAHO said 156 hospitals have agreed to use the system voluntarily this year, including 67 that used the system during its test phase. "Hospitals are currently enrolling in the IMSystem at the expected rate," the JCAHO said.
It also said the goal of the system is not the "accumulation of profits."
"The Joint Commission remains a not-for-profit entity. That means that any increase in revenues over expenses...will either be used to reduce other fees and charges, such as survey fees, or be invested in activities critical to the organization's future success in helping healthcare organizations provide improved care to the public," the letter said.