The Joint Commission Update for Infection Control

Joint chief: Quality must be part of health reform

National health care reform must include a quality component — including preventing health care-associated infections — if it is to become an effective and affordable reality, Mark R. Chassin, MD, president of The Joint Commission, notes in a commentary posted on the Joint Commission web site (http://www.jointcommission.org).

"Eliminating the preventable complications that today harm millions of patients would easily save the many billions of dollars lawmakers are struggling so hard to locate," Chassin wrote in a commentary that was originally posted in Modern Heathcare Online on July 22, 2009. Though warning that it will not be easy to transform quality in health care, he emphasizes that health care reform should target quality because "avoidable injuries from medications, preventable infections, surgical complications that should not occur, and problems resulting from poor communication among health care providers cost hundreds of billions of dollars each year. . . . If you add in the consequences of the inappropriate use of health services (think antibiotics for colds), the possible savings are staggering."

Americans "don't understand why doctors and nurses and technicians in hospitals and nursing homes don't wash their hands every time they should. . . . People are getting impatient with the slow pace of improvement in patient safety. . . . The key to transforming our health care system into one in which patients can feel confident in the safety of the care they receive is to incorporate proven quality improvement methods already in use in other environments [i.e., nuclear power] into the delivery of health care," Chassin wrote.