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March 15, 2018

House panel probes CMS, hospital accreditors over patient safety concerns

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    The House Energy and Commerce Committee is looking into organizations that accredit U.S. hospitals following a Wall Street Journal report published last year that highlighted instances in which hospitals attained or kept their accreditations despite patient safety issues.

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    Background: WSJ investigation finds accreditor rarely took action over safety violations

    An investigation the Journal published in September 2017 found that The Joint Commission—which according to the Journal accredits nearly 80% of U.S. hospitals—usually does not modify or revoke accreditations when state inspectors discover serious safety issues. For instance, the Journal found instances in which hospitals kept their full accreditations even when CMS had removed them from Medicare because of safety violations. The investigation found that more than 30 cases in which hospitals with severe safety violations were permitted to keep their accreditations.

    House panel probes accreditors

    Leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee recently sent letters to four national accrediting organizations—the Bureau of Healthcare Facilities Accreditation, the Center for Improvement in Healthcare Quality, DNV GL Healthcare, and The Joint Commission—and CMS, which is responsible for overseeing accreditation organizations and state survey agencies, Modern Healthcare reports.

    The letters stated, "The committee is concerned about the adequacy of CMS' oversight as well as the rigor of the accrediting organization survey process." As such, they wrote that the committee "is conducting oversight to ensure that patient safety is being provided for, and that federal standards are being adhered to."

    The lawmakers requested accrediting entities turnover any correspondence they have had with the federal government, any corrective actions taken against accredited organizations, and performance reviews. The lawmakers asked CMS to provide them with copies of complaints sent to the agency that alleged patient harm and details on any actions CMS took to respond, as well as any correspondence CMS has had with the accrediting groups about hospitals' inspection performance.


    CMS in a statement said the agency "will continue to follow our longstanding response protocol, and after appropriate agency review is complete we will share a full answer to the committee through that standing process."

    Dawn Glossa, a spokesperson for The Joint Commission, said the group "intend[s] to respond and see[s] this as an opportunity to share more on the work [it does] to improve health care quality and patient safety by facilitating high reliability." According to the Journal, The Joint Commission has said it does not regularly withdraw hospital accreditations over of safety issues because it focuses more on preventing problems than penalizing or regulating hospitals (Armour, Wall Street Journal, 3/12; Rappleye, Becker's Clinical Leadership & Infection Control, 3/12; Armour, Wall Street Journal, 9/8/17; Castellucci, Modern Healthcare, 3/13).

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