The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations this week plans to start mailing to hospitals advance copies of their 1994 ratings reports-the first to be made public by the accrediting body.
Accredited organizations will have a 30-day head start to review the reports and prepare a response before the information is made available to the public. But they won't be able to challenge the numerical scores, based on a scale of 100, which comprise the core of the disclosure, said spokeswoman Alice Brown.
Members of the general public should be able to request specific reports-after paying a $30 fee for each one-by early December, Ms. Brown said.
About 700 hospitals will be the first to receive results, having been surveyed between January and July. The mailing was to be triggered last Friday by a final go-ahead from the JCAHO task force formed to develop the format and process of disclosing accreditation information to the public.
The JCAHO has scheduled a news conference on Thursday to unveil the reporting format and the accompanying explanation to the public about what accreditation measures. JCAHO officials will explain that the ratings are based on standards that measure the potential for quality care rather than providing a measure of past performance.
But some members of an advisory committee that took one last look at the explanations earlier this month aren't satisfied that the point is getting across.
In "a rather lengthy discussion of not just the report card (format) but the explanatory document," the JCAHO Hos-pital Accreditation Program/Professional and Technical Advisory Committee suggested substantial revision of the proposed document, said Bill Monnig, M.D., who attended the session as an alternate delegate of the American Medical Association.
The AMA had lodged objections to the text of the explanations during the JCAHO board meeting in September that cleared the way for the disclosure program (Oct. 3, p. 6). The board had approved the public release in principle in May 1993.
Dr. Monnig said AMA representatives realize the public pressure for some method of judging providers is driving the "report card" movement, and delaying the JCAHO's effort won't stop others from filling the demand. "We don't want to slow down the process of getting this (information disclosed), but we want to make sure people know what they're getting," said Dr. Monnig, a urologist practicing in Edgewood, Ky.
Committee members advised field-testing the format and explanation, using fictitious hospitals, to determine what con-clusions people draw from it. Under the current plan, real hospitals will end up as the field-test subjects, Dr. Monnig said.
"You will find that a number of people who get the documents are going to come to the wrong conclusions," he said. "And it will have to be modified. But in the process, some institutions are going to suffer."