Hospitals' Patient Care Improving, Joint Commission Reports

The fourth annual report from The Joint Commission says accredited hospitals have steadily improved patient care quality during the past seven years. By eliminating preventable complications "that today drive up the cost of care, we would easily save the many billions of dollars lawmakers are struggling so hard to locate," its president said.

There was good news in the Joint Commission's fourth annual report, titled "Improving America's Hospitals: The Joint Commission's Report on Quality and Safety 2009," published Jan. 14. Examining care given to patients with heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia, and surgical conditions, the report for the first time also included children's asthma care.

Since the original core measures began to be studied in 2002, pneumococcal vaccination and smoking cessation advice measures have improved the most.

"In addition to saving lives and improving health, improved quality reduces health care costs by eliminating preventable complications," said Mark R. Chassin, MD, M.P.P., MPH, president of The Joint Commission. "Quality improvement is an important aspect of the ongoing reform effort to make health care accessible to more Americans and 'bend the curve' on increasing costs. By eliminating the preventable complications that today drive up the cost of care, we would easily save the many billions of dollars lawmakers are struggling so hard to locate."

The fourth annual report shows improvement ranging from 4.9 percent to 58.8 percent in 2002-2008 on 12 quality measures reflecting the best evidence-based treatments for heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia. Hospital performance also improved on 13 other measures, according to The Joint Commission.

There are measures covered in the report: Eight relate to heart attack, four to heart failure, nine to pneumonia, eight to surgical care, and two to children's asthma care. More than 3,000 accredited hospitals contributed data.

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