Healthcare's not-for-profit accrediting agency is back to soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual contributions, but there's no way to know who's giving and how much.
If recent history is any indication, however, medical suppliers are stepping up to support educational agendas that fit nicely with what they're selling. In 2000, contributions totaled $760,000, the biggest annual take since the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations starting reporting contributions as a source of income.
And unlike in those previous years, the JCAHO got no help from its own corporate sponsors.
Before 1993, the line item for direct contributions was always blank on the Form 990 the commission filed annually with the Internal Revenue Service. But from 1993 to 1996, the commission took in from $425,000 to $450,000.
Most of that, however, represented an annual total of $420,000 that the commission's five sponsoring organizations began collectively ponying up. The rest were contribution dribs and drabs of under $5,000 that did not have to be reported separately.
Direct contributions shot up to $635,000 in 1997 with the addition of $210,000 from pharmaceutical and supply companies, including $150,000 from Pfizer. But the annual contributions ended in 1998 from the JCAHO's corporate foundation: the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons, the American Dental Association and the American College of Physicians.
A $100,000 contribution from Pfizer anchored a total of $147,500 in 1998, and $55,000 from Becton Dickinson & Co., a medical equipment and supply company, accounted for most of the $60,000 reported in 1999.
But the JCAHO did not include the contributors list in its public disclosure for 2000. "We're respecting our donors' wishes," said spokeswoman Cathy Barry-Ipema.
Not-for-profit organizations are not required by law to make the list of contributors public, and donors have a right to contribute without being identified, said JCAHO Chief Financial Officer Paige Rodgers. She said that JCAHO activities in areas such as patient safety have attracted a lot of attention from organizations.
The commission has solicited sponsorships that support educational seminars tied to compliance with standards in clinical areas. Last year, for example, Purdue Pharma conferred an unrestricted grant to support two pain-management seminars. The Stamford, Conn., pharmaceutical and research company has made development of abuse-resistant pain medication a top corporate objective.