Joint Commission makes major revisions to quality, safety standards

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The Joint Commission is retiring 14% of its quality standards during the first round of a review process that seeks to refocus hospital safety and quality goals and decrease administrative burden, the healthcare accrediting organization will announce Tuesday.

Joint Commission President and CEO Dr. Jonathan Perlin said the changes remove redundancies and obsolete measures from the accreditation process and make room for new standards on health equity, environmental sustainability, infection control and workforce development. The revisions take effect Jan. 1.

“If we can help clear out some of the noise, we can work with the healthcare community to offer a much stronger signal for advancing safety, equity and quality,” Perlin said.

The revisions affect 56 of the Joint Commission’s more than 250 standards, which go beyond federal regulations. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved the update, Perlin said.

The Joint Commission is doing away with a variety of standards, including those related to discarding unlabeled medicine, monitoring safe opioid prescribing, establishing procedures and quality control checks for simple diagnostic tests, and adhering to behavioral management policies. Notably, the accrediting body is scrapping a measure based on healthcare facility smoking bans, which the Joint Commission deemed outdated because of widespread hospital policies and local laws that achieve the same result.

Most of the standards—such as a requirement that health systems provide incidence data to key stakeholders, including licensed practitioners, nursing staff and other clinicians—are addressed in other aspects of the accrediting process, according to the Joint Commission.

Consolidating metrics and standards between the Joint Commission, regulators such as CMS and health insurance companies will be crucial to reduce the “never-ending” list of measures that health systems must track to retain accreditation, said Dr. Marian Savage, vice president of quality and patient experience at Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston, South Carolina, which is part of Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health.

To save hospitals time and money on duplicative data reporting, oversight bodies should create a central repository for data and standardize definitions for metrics industrywide, Savage said. “We spend more time on the abstraction piece than we do on the performance improvement piece, which is the most important,” she said.

Moving forward, the Joint Commission will review its standards every six months and convene experts from accredited organizations to devise metrics that are data-driven and align with common interests. Perlin said marrying accreditation requirements with health systems’ broader goals will make reporting quality and safety data more efficient and less burdensome.

The new approach will also enable the Joint Commission and healthcare providers to devote attention to emerging issues, Perlin said. For example, the commission already established advisory panels to review standards and develop new ones for issues such as environmental sustainability and infection control.

The Joint Commission is launching new standards next year that will require hospitals and clinics to appoint leaders focused on reducing health disparities and research variations in quality and safety data among different population segments.

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