An Arkansas hospital last week decided to drop accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, saying the move would result in "more relevant" monitoring and save nearly $170,000 a year.
St. Mary's Hospital of Rogers, Ark., said it would undergo an annual Medicare survey conducted by the state Department of Health. The JCAHO had accredited the hospital, licensed for 165 beds, for the past 40 years.
The Arkansas Hospital Association last year considered a mass withdrawal of its members from the accreditation program (April 18, p. 12), but executives reconsidered after meeting with JCAHO representatives. Last month, however, association Executive Vice President James Teeter said dissatisfaction with the JCAHO hadn't eased and he "wouldn't be surprised" if individual members started dropping out.
Last week, he indicated that the slippage had started.
"I think there have been a lot of wait-and-seers," he said, commenting on the decision by St. Mary's. "It's a very highly respected hospital, a well-known hospital....In Arkansas, this could be looked at as a benchmarker."
In a written statement, St. Mary's said it already had been bringing in the state Medicare surveyors "periodically" to validate the JCAHO surveys. The Medicare review process is conducted without charge.
The hospital said it spends $168,000 each year to prepare for the JCAHO survey, including travel, meetings and the purchase of survey materials. On average, Arkansas hospitals pay $20,000 for JCAHO to conduct surveys, according to the statement by St. Mary's. Accreditation automatically qualifies a hospital for Medicare reimbursement.
"After careful evaluation, the governing board now believes that the annual Medicare survey is the most meaningful and cost-effective way to demonstrate our commitment to our patients and the healthcare community," said Sister Sharon Therese Zayac, president of St. Mary's. The hospital's next JCAHO survey was scheduled for February 1995, said commission spokeswoman Cathy Barry-Ipema.
The annual state review will cover physical plant and safety, skilled-nursing beds and Medicare. The state reviews the hospital every two years for license renewal.
JCAHO last week said it hadn't received word about the St. Mary's decision and couldn't comment on it.