You couldn't blame advocates for quality healthcare for being discouraged by recent events.
The decision by the Cleveland Clinic to pull out of one of the first hospital report card projects is lamentable enough (Jan. 18, p. 14). The move does not reflect well on an institution with a long history of innovation and excellence in healthcare.
Even more distressing is the spectacle of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the hospital industry bickering and backbiting like members of Congress (Jan. 11, p. 3). The American Hospital Association and some state hospital associations complain that the Joint Commission is making changes and moving too fast with its Oryx performance-measurement program. They contend they haven't had adequate briefings and adequate opportunity for comment.
First of all, you have to give some credence to the hospitals' gripes. The Joint Commission has never been known for clear communication. Any group that names its premier quality project after an obscure African antelope needs to learn something about getting its message across. Moreover, Joint Commission officials often seem more interested in playing word games and hiding behind bureaucratic process than in taking action to improve the chances that patients will get out of the hospital alive.
That said, it's difficult to believe that the AHA and some of its members have been blindsided by the Joint Commission. After all, the AHA appoints seven members of the commission's 28-person board. The Oryx project has been under way for almost two years. If the industry really is uninformed, reasonable people might conclude that hospital officials haven't asked any questions.
Whatever the truth, none of this looks very good to healthcare payers, government officials or the public. The rest of the world is deep into the information age, and consumers are demanding data. In its 48 years, the Joint Commission has never based accreditation on how well a hospital takes care of its patients. Five decades is too long for such a lapse. The industry and the Joint Commission should drop the infighting and finish the overdue work.
If they can't do it, somebody else, like the government, for instance, just might.