Hospitals that receive accreditation from organizations like the Joint Commission don't have better mortality or readmission rates than their non-accredited peers, according to a new study.
Joint Commission accreditation doesn't lead to better outcomes, study shows
Readmissions for six common surgical procedures were also virtually identical. Accredited hospitals had a 15.9% readmission rate compared to non-accredited hospitals' 15.6%. Researchers at Harvard examined the mortality and readmission rates of more than 4.2 million patients.
Major accreditation organizations including the Joint Commission claim their certifications improve the quality of patient care by reducing variation in clinical processes across hospitals.
Hospitals must renew their accreditation every three years and compliance surveys can reportedly cost as much as $18,000.
Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and an author of the study, said he hoped the report would improve the accreditation process rather than eliminate those programs.
"We need to sort of sharpen the focus of accreditation towards improving patient outcomes," Jha said. "One thing that's undoubtedly clear is that there are a lot of good hospitals with terrible outcomes that seem to pass with flying colors every time they go up for accreditation."
Surveyors now put too much focus on things like if a hospital has appropriate signs or if they clean the floors properly, Jha said.
He is hopeful that the CMS will work with accreditation organizations to improve their processes, especially since hospitals must receive accreditation as a condition to bill Medicare or Medicaid.
The Joint Commission, the nation's largest accrediting organization, said the study actually proves their stamp of approval has benefits, according to its spokeswoman Maureen Lyons. Even though there was only a 0.4 percentage point difference in 30-day mortality rates, that is an improvement, she said.
Similarly, Lyons pointed out that patients with 15 common medical conditions admitted to accredited hospitals had lower readmission rates at 22.4% compared to 23.2% at non-accredited hospitals, according to the study.
"While the authors considered these differences 'modest,' they matter to patients," Lyons said.
Those small percent differences add up to 12,000 fewer deaths and 24,000 fewer readmissions, she said.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.