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THINKING ABOUT HEALTH

Hospitals May Get Accredited Even With Poor, Unsafe Care

10/4/2017, noon | Updated on 10/4/2017, noon
Increasingly, it’s becoming clear there are few places patients and their families can turn for help in avoiding bad care ...
Trudy Lieberman

its focus is less on regulating or penalizing and more on

preventing problems.

And this brings us back to that age-old problem: Should a government regulate business, including hospitals which have become very big businesses - or should it provide information so buyers, or in this case patients, can compare the offerings and make decent choices? Opponents of regulation argue that providing information is best.

In the case of hospitals, though, patients have neither

regulation nor information. The Journal’s reporting shows

that the Joint Commission’s inspection process often lets

hospitals keep their accreditation even as they deliver poor care. At the same time, the Joint Commission has continually

refused to make its hospital inspection reports public. So if

patients are supposed to do their homework before undergoing health procedures, it’s a fair question to ask: How should they do that?

Earlier this year the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid

Services proposed a rule that would have required the Joint

Commission to make its inspection records public. The agency cited serious concerns about the Commission’s ability

to identify safety problems. The Commission opposed the

regulation, arguing it would make its work harder. Hospitals

opposed it, too.

CMS heard their pleas and withdrew the proposal leaving patients in the same information vacuum they were in before.

Earlier this year Ashish Jha, a professor of health policy at the T. H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard, told me he had no idea which hospital in New York City had the lowest risk of safety problems. At best he could only make a rough guess. He told the Journal its findings show “accreditation is basically meaningless – it doesn’t mean a hospital is safe.”

What kind of information would you like to see about safety and quality of care at your local hospital? Write to Trudy at trudy.lieberman@ gmail.com.