A new blog, JC Physician, has been launched to share information on Joint Commission initiatives designed to support physicians and health care institutions in their efforts to reach a common goal—keeping patients safe. Joint Commission physician leaders also will use the blog to learn what is working well and how improvements can be made. Written by and for physicians, the biweekly JC Physician blog discusses health care issues of interest to physicians as well as other topics, such as ethics, the environment, and current affairs. Regular physician contributors will include Daniel Castillo, MD; Ana McKee, MD; Paul Schyve, MD; Robert Wise, MD; and Ron Wyatt, MD, MHA.
Role of physicians in accreditation
Physicians are at the center of all efforts to improve patient outcomes, providing clinical leadership, and advocating for quality and safety in health care. By serving as a bridge between patients and staff and staff and management, physicians play a unique leadership role in fostering improvement in care. This role makes physician involvement in the accreditation process—with its focus on helping health care organizations improve the safety and quality of care—an imperative.
Although Joint Commission accreditation requirements are designed to provide a framework for carrying out necessary daily activities, physicians are needed as leaders in all quality and safety efforts. The Joint Commission understands that physicians have limited time for performance improvement and respects physician autonomy and time constraints. Accreditation, however, is relevant to physicians because its emphasis on safety and quality improvement can make a difference in the health and safety of their patients.
Leading the way
Not more than 10 years ago, operations often were performed without verifying the site, without the team affirming that the correct patient was on the operating room table, or without confirming that the correct procedure was about to be performed. Many hospitals also lacked a standardized process for reviewing a comprehensive list of medications and reconciling them for appropriateness on admission or discharge. These standardized processes are examples of the many innovations that The Joint Commission has introduced into the health care environment over the years—practices that are designed to help physicians keep patients safe. Despite these types of interventions, some physicians may not view The Joint Commission as the national driver for patient safety for a couple of reasons.
First, most physicians don’t know the extensive role that other physicians have played in the founding and continued leadership of The Joint Commission. Established in 1951 largely to expand the American College of Surgeons’ (ACS) Hospital Standards program, The Joint Commission is governed by commissioners representing the American Medical Association, the ACS, the American College of Physicians, and other corporate member organizations. Half of the members of the board of commissioners and the board chair, Rebecca Patchin, MD, are physicians.
Improving communication with physicians
Despite the significant physician leadership of The Joint Commission, communication with physicians in accredited institutions has been inadequate. This lack of communication partially contributes to the misperceptions physicians have about The Joint Commission. Furthermore, almost every physician at some point in his or her career has been told “because The Joint Commission says so” in response to a complex question that deserved a better explanation. Responses such as this one not only underestimate the intelligence of the individual, but deny the individual an understanding of the rationale behind why a particular process is in place.
The role physicians play in improving clinical outcomes and reducing risk is immeasurable. In growing numbers, physicians are working in teams that understand and work toward reducing variation, standardizing processes, and building a safety culture. How The Joint Commission supports this work and the tools it provides is a story that needs to be told. Physician leaders at The Joint Commission are keenly aware of the importance of sharing information and breaking down communication barriers and have made a commitment to make this happen. Submit a question or a comment to the JC Physician blog.