Patient safety issues rarely spur Joint Commission to withdraw seal of approval

The Joint Commission seldom revokes its seal of approval for hospitals who do not comply with Medicare regulations, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Investigators analyzed hundreds of Joint Commission inspection reports from 2014 through 2016. About 350 Joint Commission-accredited hospitals violated Medicare requirements in 2014. More than one-third of those facilities had additional violations in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The Joint Commission, which serves as the accrediting agency for nearly 80 percent of U.S. hospitals, withdrew accreditation for just 1 percent of facilities not in compliance in 2014. More than 30 hospitals maintained accreditation, despite CMS identifying violations severe enough to cause — or likely to cause — serious patient injuries or deaths. The research suggests hundreds of hospitals with patient safety issues could promote accreditation status and bear The Joint Commission's "Gold Seal of Approval."

"It's clearly a failed system and time for a change," Ashish Jha, MD, a practicing internist and health policy researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, told WSJ. "[The investigation] shows accreditation is basically meaningless — it doesn't mean a hospital is safe."

Joint Commission CEO Mark Chassin, MD, told WSJ the organization generally avoids revoking accreditation. He said the group's mission is to "work closely with healthcare organizations to help them improve the care they provide," not punish them for safety incidents.

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