Healthcare Oversight: Slow-Moving on Improvement

The efforts of many healthcare organizations to adopt improvement strategies is now well-known. But what does one of the industry’s chief overseers have to say about it?

            I’m referring to the Joint Commission, the independent, not-for-profit organization that evaluates and accredits nearly 15,000 healthcare organizations.

            The good news is that the Joint Commission is aware of improvement concepts. The bad news is that awareness is about as far as it goes, at least for now.

            The Commission has a lot to say about performance measurement. It is constantly reviewing and updating its metrics on a wide range of healthcare areas, usually having to do with treatment and care in specific areas. It also issues a Specification Manual National Hospital Quality Measures.

            But setting, or even upgrading quality standards is not the same thing as eliminating waste and working to improve operations.

            On that topic, in the Public Policy section of its website, the Commission has a page discussing Reducing Waste in Health Care and Improving Efficiency. It states:


            Waste in health care is vividly apparent, and its potential reduction is actionable at various levels. Opportunity areas include systems redesign in health care organizations, such as through adoption of the Toyota Lean methodology; implementation of electronic health records; placing evidence-based limitations on the deployment and use of new technologies; and payment system reform. Virtually all of these opportunities create corresponding new opportunities to improve patient safety and health care quality. 


            Sounds fine. So what is the Commission doing in this area?

            The Waste Reduction and Improving Efficiency initiative will systemically categorize and describe opportunities for waste reduction and improved patient care, identify accountabilities for their pursuit, and frame approaches to measuring success in reducing waste in hospitals and other organized health care delivery settings.

A white paper report addressing Reducing Waste and Improving Efficiency in hospitals and other health care settings will represent the culmination of the Roundtable’s discussions.

            Well, I suppose that’s better than nothing. If the planned white paper leads to the Commission actually setting some standards or endorsing some meaningful approaches, then it might achieve something.

            However, this seems to be a situation where the oversight body – for which quality improvement is clearly a primary goal – is slower-moving and further behind those early adopters in the industry who are starting to achieve real improvement by embracing lean principles. That’s where the real improvement will come from.


1 comment:

Ralph Bernstein said...

4/18/2007 9:46:47 PM
Re: Healthcare Oversight: Slow-Moving on Improvement
By: dcbliss

Ralph, my question would be - what standards do you believe should be established? I wouldn't think the Joint Commission should be in the position of dictating one method or another. Or do you think they should do something like the ISO group by saying you must have an improvement process in place?