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Pharmacists May Join JCAHO's Hospital Survey Teams in 2004

Cheryl A. Thompson

Hospitals that undergo a survey next year by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) may be explaining their medication-use process to a pharmacist. The accrediting group has decided to reconfigure its hospital survey teams to include clinicians other than nurse executives, paving the way for pharmacists to be surveyors for the hospital accreditation program.

"We only used to look for nurse executives," said JCAHO's Darryl S. Rich, Pharm.D., M.B.A., FASHP, an associate director of surveyor management and development. "[Now] we will accept someone in a different area ... not just nurse executives."

Traditionally, the team assigned to survey a hospital consisted of a nurse executive, a physician, and an administrator. If a team were planning to conduct an unannounced survey at a hospital suspected of having a serious problem with the standards on medication use, Rich or a pharmacist from the home care accreditation program would accompany the group, he said. That approach will change as JCAHO proceeds with its "gradual transition" to a hospital survey team with a broader range of clinical experience than before, Rich said.

Please note: The upcoming change by JCAHO does not mean that there will be a pharmacist on every hospital survey team.

Pharmacists were the first clinicians mentioned, he said, when discussion turned to the specifics of who might join the hospital survey teams. The reason? Pharmacists have a good understanding of the overall operation of a hospital, he said, and are becoming more important as medication management plays a larger role in patient safety.

Rich said JCAHO plans to recruit 25 clinicians who will work as part-time or intermittent surveyors, with training to begin in October. Because JCAHO must fill some vacant slots in the home care accreditation program, Rich said preference will be given to applications from pharmacists who work as a hospital pharmacy director or a performance or quality improvement coordinator and who manage or have experience in home care or home infusion.

Coincident with the change in composition of hospital survey teams, the educational credential of pharmacists working as surveyors will change. JCAHO will require that its pharmacist surveyors have a Pharm.D. degree or a clinically oriented advanced degree and clinical experience equivalent to that of a pharmacist with a Pharm.D. degree.

The above changes are not yet reflected at the JCAHO Web site. Pharmacists who want to apply for the surveyor positions should send their application to Darryl Rich or Mark Schario, who have similar positions at JCAHO.