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The Joint Commission, the accrediting agency for most US healthcare facilities, is continuing to consolidate its standards.

In late 2022, the Joint Commission announced the elimination of roughly 14 percent of its standards to consolidate and reformulate processes in a way that is more helpful to healthcare providers across the country.  In July of this year, the Joint Commission announced a second cut of more than 200 standards.

The Joint Commission is a non-profit organization that accredits healthcare programs and facilities in the US.  The Commission has an international arm that also accredits medical services elsewhere in the world.

“Standards” are “elements of performance (EPs)” that are vetted processes set by the Joint Commission.  These processes are arrived at through review of research, comment from healthcare providers, expert opinion, government officials, and others. Standards are created and distributed in the interest of improving patient care, and reducing the prospect of  medical error and  poor outcomes.  These standards can be readily measured and reported by the facilities and providers that use them.

The areas affected by the deletion of these EPs includes:

  • Ambulatory Health Care
  • Behavioral Health Care
  • Critical Access Hospital
  • Laboratory
  • Nursing Care Center
  • Office-Based Surgery
  • Home Care
  • Hospital

Elements were considered for deletion or streamlining if they had been in effect for at least three years, were not related to state or federal regulations, and had been scored five or less times during Joint Commission surveys between 2017 to 2019.

The object of eliminating these standards is to respond to feedback from providers and experts and to create “fewer but more meaningful” standards for the accreditation process. Dr. Jonathan Perlin, President of The Joint Commission Enterprise explained the effort:

When we announced the first tranche of eliminated and revised standards in December 2022, hospital leadership and direct care providers alike were extremely supportive of the news that Joint Commission standards would be fewer but more meaningful. After such positive feedback, we are pleased to extend additional relief to our accredited organizations outside the hospital setting — especially as this is where patients most frequently receive care.”

The Joint Commission previously announced that it plans to announce additional updates every six months.  Besides eliminating onerous and potentially redundant standards, a hoped-for outcome of the elimination of dead wood is actual improvement in patient care and better patient safety across-the-board.

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