Government report finds fault with Joint Commission

But the accreditation organization said the GAO study critical of its inspections is misleading.

By Damon Adams — Posted Aug. 16, 2004

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

A new government report has found problems at hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. In response, two legislators are proposing greater government oversight of JCAHO's hospital accreditation process.

The Government Accountability Office reviewed state surveys and found problems at 157 of 500 hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission.

JCAHO's surveys missed problems at 123 of those 157 hospitals during the study period of 2000-2002, the report said. JCAHO did not identify the majority of deficiencies in Medicare requirements found by state agencies.

The report, released July 20, cited inadequacies in nursing practices, fire safety and physical environment problems as "serious deficiencies that could endanger multiple patients." The GAO said Congress should consider giving the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services the same authority over JCAHO's hospital accreditation program that it has over other accreditation programs.

"This report raises serious concerns about the ability of the hospital accreditation process to assure compliance with Medicare's requirements. While it would be unreasonable to conclude, based on this investigation, that there's widespread failure within the system, deliberate action is long overdue," Rep. Pete Stark, (D, Calif.), said in a statement.

On the day of the report's release, Stark and Sen. Charles Grassley, (R, Iowa), introduced legislation that would give CMS increased oversight authority over the Joint Commission. JCAHO said it supported the legislation for increased accountability. But the Illinois-based organization said the report's findings were misleading, adding that it was irresponsible to alarm the public with statistics that had little meaning. JCAHO also said the report did not reflect the true oversight of the nation's hospitals.

"The most important fact is the Joint Commission-accredited hospitals evaluated in this study were found to be in compliance with 98% of the Medicare [requirements] by the state survey agencies. This reality is acknowledged but downplayed in the GAO report," said JCAHO President Dennis O'Leary, MD.

Dr. O'Leary said the report focused on hospital surveys conducted before the organization implemented its new accreditation process.

Back to top

External links

"Medicare: CMS Needs Additional Authority to Adequately Oversee Patient Safety in Hospitals," Government Accountability Office report, in pdf (link)

Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations' response to GAO report (link)

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn