No respect. Poor communication skills. Plays favorites.
The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations is the industry's version of the baseball umpire. Like Major League Baseball's men in blue, the JCAHO and its surveyors are handed an immense amount of power and responsibility, yet they are hamstrung by hostility from critical constituents.
In baseball, the resentment comes from callow players, callous owners and irate fans. With the JCAHO, the venom flows from disgruntled healthcare organizations, testy labor unions and highly critical public watchdogs.
But there appears to be at least one key difference between umps and surveyors. While the umpires and their union are on the verge of self-destruction, the JCAHO is listening to its critics and appears willing to make appropriate changes.
Umpires had announced a Sept. 2 mass resignation, saying they would return as a group only with improved working conditions. That's a strange strategy for workers held in such obvious low esteem. Many umps now are backtracking.
We're certain the JCAHO and its president, Dennis O'Leary, M.D., would never do anything so foolish. But we know the JCAHO is again on the hot seat. That follows last month's government report suggesting that the commission is so busy with quality improvement initiatives that its basic survey process fails to protect the public from "substandard patterns of care or individual practitioners with questionable skills."
HHS' inspector general's office recommends that the JCAHO probe more deeply into hospital operations and share more findings with the public.
O'Leary, to his credit, agrees with many of the report's conclusions. He claims that for much of this year the organization has focused on revamping the survey process so that surveyors can better detect improper care.
In the end, the JCAHO must strike the proper balance between tough regulation and a more collegial approach designed to help providers identify and correct operational deficiencies. To accomplish that goal, the JCAHO must shed its tag of being too chummy with the hospital industry. Umpires, after all, must be impartial.