In an interview with MODERN HEALTHCARE, Dennis O'Leary, M.D., outlined the many accomplishments in the past year by the Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
JCAHO President O'Leary also unveiled the agency's strategic initiatives for 1997.
For example, turnaround time on accreditation surveys by the Joint Commission dropped from an average of 90 days to less than 50 days in 1996. "We did pretty well," O'Leary said.
Among the JCAHO's other feats:
It tried to match surveyors' professional experience to the organization being surveyed.
It simplified the application form for an accreditation survey.
It gave some hospital accreditation surveyors laptop computers so they can draft survey reports on site. By 1998, the JCAHO wants surveyors in all seven of its accreditation programs to be using laptops for that purpose.
It reduced charges on performance reports and made them more accessible to the public.
It signed cooperative agreements with two other accrediting agencies, the Community Health Accreditation Program (for home care) and the Commission on Office Laboratory Accreditation. "We are now interacting with all the major national accrediting bodies," O'Leary said.
It replaced its conditional accreditation program with an "accreditation watch" effort, which the JCAHO says is a more relevant way to handle healthcare facilities with intermediate quality problems.
This year, the JCAHO wants to carry these initiatives to the next level.
The agency's 28-member board of commissioners also wants to integrate survey teams to handle the multiple services an organization offers. If a hospital provides long-term-care and home-care services, O'Leary said, "we should have a survey team that can get all of those services together rather than each one separately."
The board wants to develop and refine policies concerning medical errors. The JCAHO will try to write a matrix of what quality woes it expects organizations to self-report.
The agency will also do a demonstration project of transmitting performance data from hospitals and long-term-care homes to a JCAHO database.
"We need to make sure this is all technically feasible" before it's introduced nationally, O'Leary said.