Monday, July 12, 2004

Clinical Performance – a Hospital Responsibility?

The July 2, 2004 issue of AHA News Now, a daily e-mail news digest published by the American Hospital Association, reported that the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services had issued the state’s first annual hospital quality report, rating hospital’s performance on eight measures of care for heart attack and pneumonia.

In his comments on the report, Gary Carter, President and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association, referred to a number of quality initiatives under way and concluded by saying "We encourage health care consumers to build upon their knowledge by learning all they can about the quality of care delivered at New Jersey hospitals."

A short twenty-five years ago, such a statement might well have gotten Carter fired. At that time, only doctors were considered qualified to make judgments about the quality of care. Anyone from the lay side of the health care establishment who attempted to meddle in quality of clinical care issues would likely have found it a career limiting experience.

As the New Jersey announcement shows, that is changing. Not only has the medical profession lost its monopoly on quality judgments, but now it is the “hospital’s performance” that is being judged, not the doctors’ performance only.

What remains is for hospitals to recognize and accept the responsibility that society is assigning to them.

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