Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

1987 May Be Milestone in Evolution of Health Care

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

1987 May Be Milestone in Evolution of Health Care

Article excerpt

Next year could go down as an important milestone in the evolution of health care in this country.

Beginning in 1987 and continuing over several years, those charged with the responsibility of monitoring hospitals - and accrediting - will be installing a radical new system of evaluating hospital care. At first blush it sounds almost too simplistic even to consider.

As in so many matters having to do with the human condition, however, this plan could get terribly complicated. What the accrediting powers now plan to do is look more closely at the end results of surgical, medical, and hospital care.

How does it turn out? Are patients dying or recovering? Are they better off for having had the hospital's care? How fast do they recover? What about complications?

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, based in Chicago, accredits more than 80 percent of the 6,000 acute care hospitals in the United States, along with nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, and outpatient clinics. Its president, Dr. Dennis O'Leary, calls the coming changes "controversial but inevitable."

Clearly, the proposed changes represent a fundamental shift in the way hospitals are evaluated. But the major health care organizations appear to be on board for the takeoff.

Both the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association, which supply most of the accrediting agency's directors, have endorsed the new approach.

Under the present system, accreditation is based on evaluations of equipment and management, not medical outcome. The commission also makes judgments about a hospital's capacity to provide high quality care.

One might ask why evaluations of patient care - how patients end up - never entered into the equation before.

Actually, it is not a fresh new idea. Changes often come slowly, despite the development of new technologies over what seems to be a relatively short span of time. Dealing with human problems can take a bit longer, especially when sensitive economic consideraitons are intertwined. …

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