Dennis O'Leary, M.D., president of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, received a vote of confidence in his leadership early this month from the JCAHO's 28-member board of commissioners, MODERN HEALTHCARE has learned.
The vote comes at a time when the JCAHO has been receiving growing criticism from some hospitals and hospital associations (May 9, p. 6). For example, a week after the vote, the JCAHO released the results of its latest opinion poll of healthcare executives, revealing that their view of the JCAHO's overall performance has declined (See story, p. 6).
In a written statement, the commission characterized the vote as part of a routine annual review of Dr. O'Leary's performance and that of other top officers. "The evaluation is based on a detailed summary of the organization's performance in relation to the established objectives and priorities for the previous year," the statement said.
The board took the vote on the first day of its two-day meeting in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., starting on May 13, said Philip Fisher, president of Valley View Regional Hospital in Ada, Okla. Mr. Fisher is one of seven board members who represent the American Hospital Association on the JCAHO board.
Mr. Fisher said the action was "very positive" in nature. "Dennis is the right guy in the right place to see us through the Agenda for Change," he said. "The field will soon see the fruits of all his labor."
D. Kirk Oglesby Jr., board chairman, said the board's executive committee, and then the full board, reviewed Dr. O'Leary's performance, which is routine at the board's May meeting.
"We expressed our high comfort level with the job Dennis is doing. He is working very hard," said Mr. Oglesby, who is president of Anderson (S.C.) Area Medical Center.
Mr. Oglesby said no formal vote is taken during such a session, but each board member is polled and offers his or her opinion.
William W. Kridelbaugh, M.D., the board's vice chairman, said the action "affirmed" Dr. O'Leary's leadership. "Dennis was given a vote of confidence; I guess that's the way you could put it." Dr. Kridelbaugh, a medical director in Albuquerque, N.M., represents the American College of Surgeons.
Charles McTier, one of the newest board members representing the public at large, called the action "a clear, open expression of support-unanimous." He said the board "reviewed the strengths of the organization and focused on those things that needed bolstering."
In the context of that discussion, the conclusion was that Dr. O'Leary was needed to provide leadership in tackling the challenges, he said.
Mr. McTier is president of the Atlanta-based Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.
The Agenda for Change is the name of the JCAHO's overhaul of its accreditation process, under way now for eight years. The project has three parts: the development of more relevant accreditation standards, the improvement of the accreditation survey process, and the creation of a mandated clinical indicator monitoring system for accredited hospitals.
The board approved a second set of five clinical indicators each for cardiovascular care, oncology and trauma care. Except for one cardiovascular indicator and two trauma indicators measuring hospital mortality rates for certain procedures, the indicators did not establish at what point the measures indicate trouble.
A note on the May 24 document said more detailed information about each indicator would soon be available. Additional comment from the JCAHO was not available at deadline.
The first sets of indicators dealt with perioperative and obstetric care. When the monitoring program, called the IMSystem, becomes mandatory for accredited hospitals, as early as 1996, hospitals would be required to collect data for a maximum of 30 indicators (March 14, p. 30).