Responding to hospital industry pressure, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has quietly agreed to reduce the amount of quality data hospitals must submit to comply with the JCAHO's new performance-based accreditation system.
Under a major policy change approved March 4 by the Joint Commission's board, hospitals will be required to report no more than six quality measures as part of Oryx, the new accreditation system that kicked off last year.
Originally, Oryx required hospitals to submit two measures each year starting in 1998, with the number of measures increasing by two annually until virtually all aspects of a hospital's clinical care would have been covered.
The initial measures would have been required to represent at least 20% of a hospital's patient population, and that percentage would have increased each year along with the additional measures.
In addition to capping the measures at six, the Joint Commission eliminated the percentage requirement.
The JCAHO confirmed the policy changes last week but had not publicly announced them.
"We're simplifying it," said Cathy Barry-Ipema, spokeswoman for the Joint Commission, based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. "We're moving to core measures (in 2002)."
Core measures are evidence-based statistics that all hospitals could choose from, depending on the kinds of patients they served and the services they offered. The measures would cover clinical care, patient perception of care and health status.
Don Nielsen, M.D., the American Hospital Association's senior vice president for quality leadership, called the policy change "a very constructive development in the movement toward core measures." He said it grew out of efforts by some state hospital associations in January to make Oryx more useful to providers.
The state associations and many hospitals objected to the way the accrediting agency was developing Oryx. They wanted more involvement in the process and a simpler approach (Jan. 18, p. 14).
The Joint Commission met with state associations in February to iron out their differences. The revision is a result of those discussions.
David Mangler of the Maryland Hospital Association's Quality Indicator Project, the leading Oryx vendor, said the cap will provide organizations "an opportunity to take a breath and settle in, and become more comfortable with the next phase of this process. This gives them a chance to not only work with their own data internally but also work with their performance measurement systems."
The simplifications also apply to home health agencies , nursing homes and behavioral health organizations.