Quality improvements being seen at hospitals

A Joint Commission report finds high rates of compliance with performance measures for treating conditions such as heart attack, pneumonia and asthma.

By — Posted Feb. 3, 2010

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American hospitals improved their performance on 25 evidence-based quality metrics in 2008, according to a report released in January by the Joint Commission.

In fact, hospitals exceeded 90% compliance on 23 of the commission's 31 measures of heart attack, pneumonia, heart failure, asthma and surgical care.

The commission, which accredits more than 17,000 hospitals and other health care organizations, has collected quality data since 2002. This is the fourth annual public report of results (link). See correction

"It's not just the average that's getting better," said Joint Commission President Mark R. Chassin, MD, MPH. "It's important to note how many hospitals are achieving really high levels of performance. ... Hospitals have figured out, even with the increasing number of measures they have to work on, how to get close to consistent excellence on these measures of quality."

The measures track performance in areas such as giving aspirin and beta-blockers to heart attack patients upon arrival and discharge, and giving patients antibiotics before surgery. Hospitals that implement these quality standards are saving lives, Dr. Chassin said.

"These measures are derived from really, really strong evidence in the literature that adherence to these processes improves patient outcomes," he said.

The commission is working to develop measures on inpatient psychiatric care and perinatal care. The quality performance captured in these metrics represents a small portion of the care that is provided daily in hospitals.

"We will never be able to cover every condition and every aspect of care with very specific, focused quality measures of this kind," Dr. Chassin said. "That's why we have a comprehensive accreditation program to look very broadly at the way hospitals and other health care organizations are functioning."

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This article originally misstated the number of hospitals and other health care organizations accredited by the Joint Commission. The correct number is more than 17,000. American Medical News regrets the error.

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