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7/15/2004

Online Reports of Quality Get Updated by JCAHO

Cheryl A. Thompson

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) today unveiled its new generation of Quality Check, an Internet-accessible database for checking the quality and safety of health care in hospitals and other settings.

Originally launched in October 2000, Quality Check was changed to match JCAHO's new system for publicly reporting organizations' performance. Gone are the numerical scores for performance areas. In the place of numbers are check marks, pluses, and minuses indicating whether a health care organization met JCAHO's expectations or fared well or poorly in comparison with other facilities.

Quality Check, said JCAHO President Dennis S. O'Leary, "will become a major new source of public information that individuals want and need to make important decisions about their health care. We hope that Quality Check will essentially take the guesswork out of making health care choices."

The database includes information on health care organizations that have been surveyed by JCAHO, with the entries for hospitals containing the most detail.

Organizations' performance on the National Patient Safety Goals is reported for facilities surveyed since Jan. 1, 2003. Hospitals' performance on the current "core measures" of acute care—heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, and pregnancy—are also reported.

"For example," O'Leary said during the news conference for the debut of the new Quality Check, "if you need treatment for heart failure, you can find out how a particular hospital compares to others nationwide and in your state for doing the things that experts agree with result in better outcomes of care."

Because hospitals do not have to submit data for all four conditions, he said, the reports for individual facilities indicate "no data" for the missing quality-of-care measures.

As for the safety of care, O'Leary said consumers can check whether a hospital uses "at least two different methods to ensure that the right medication is being given to the right patient."

However, in what appears to be a glitch, the database indicates "N/A," or "This Measure is not applicable for this," for the National Patient Safety Goals at hospitals surveyed before Jan. 1, 2003.