Last December, after an accreditation review visit from the Joint Commission, Massachusetts General Hospital President Peter Slavin sent out a staffwide memo detailing 10 areas in which the commission was requiring improvement in patient care and safety.
The memo, which also outlined steps staff members of the Boston-based, 902-bed hospital were mandated to take to meet the improvement goals, was meant for internal viewing only. But when a local newspaper received a copy and published a story last month detailing the cited problems, hospital officials decided to take an unusual step: They went public with the Joint Commissions accreditation review findings.
The move, designed to ease the public relations problems that can go along with such critical disclosures, was followed by similar actions from four other Boston hospitals that were asked by Boston Globe reporting staff to share their review findings. Over the past two weeks, 746-bed Brigham and Womens Hospital, 27-bed Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 571-bed Boston Medical Center and 321-bed Childrens Hospital Boston also released their Joint Commission accreditation review findings in response to the Globes request.
Despite the gush of accreditation data from the hospitals, officials said they arent committing to similar releases in the future. Weve always been very open about the surveyors results with our staff, said Dana-Farber spokesman Steve Singer regarding the institutes approach to the accreditation review process. This is, however, the first time we released the findings to the public.
Officials for the other hospitals involved also said they havent decided to release their Joint Commission reviews on a regular basis, but given the events that unfolded, it was the right thing to do this time.
Gregg Meyer, Massachusetts Hospitals senior vice president of quality and safety, said hospital officials decided transparency was the best way to take the offensive and give context to the commissions report. The hospital was cited in the paper for issues that included failure by some medical staff to properly sanitize their hands before and after contact with patients; improper storage and disposal of medications; and not following through on patient medication reconciliation.
The story the Globe did in March made it appear as if there were all these quality control issues, when there really arent, Meyer said. He noted, for example, that the commissions requirement for improvement around hand hygiene involved instances where Joint Commission surveyors observed radiology technicians properly sanitizing their hands before interaction with patients, but then moving a piece of equipment and forgetting to rewash before interacting again with the patients. We felt it was important to address (the review) and address it in lay terms, Meyer said.