Joint Commission gives hospitals good report

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The Joint Commission has good news for the nation’s hospitals: They’re doing a better job.

The nation’s hospitals have improved the quality of patient care every year for the past seven years, said The Joint Commission, the hospital accrediting body.

The commission’s latest report provides evidence in improvements in patient care for heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical conditions. Since their inception as core measures in 2002, pneumococcal vaccination and smoking cessation advice measures showed the greatest rate of improvement.

“In addition to saving lives and improving health, improved quality reduces health care costs by eliminating preventable complications,” said Mark Chassin, president of The Joint Commission.

The report shows continual improvement between 2002 and 2008 on 12 measures reflecting the best evidence-based treatments for heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia. The nation’s hospitals improved from 4.9 percent to 58.8 percent for those three measures.

Other information from the report:
- Hospital performance on two individual measures of quality relating to inpatient care for childhood asthma improved 99.8 percent on providing relievers to asthma inpatients.
- The overall heart attack care result improved to 96.7 percent during 2008 from 86.9 percent in 2002. The score means that hospitals provided an evidence-based treatment 967 times for every 1,000 opportunities to do so.
- The overall 2008 pneumonia care result is 92.9 percent, up from 72.3 percent during 2002.

More improvement is needed in some areas, however. Only 52.4 percent of hospitals provided fibrinolytic therapy within 30 minutes of arrival to heart attack patients, and only 60.3 percent of hospitals provided antibiotics to intensive care patients with pneumonia within 24 hours of arrival.

“The data in this report show steady improvement over time on vitally important measures of quality,” Chassin said. “With more than 95 percent of hospitals now exceeding 90 percent performance on some measures, we are beginning to see the kind of consistent excellence to which we aspire for all health care.”