JCAHO safety goals extend reporting rule

Among the major changes cited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations in its recently announced 2007 National Patient Safety Goals is the extension of a requirement that accredited organizations define and communicate the means by which patients and their families can report safety concerns.

New this year is a requirement that certain accredited organizations provide a complete list of medications to each patient upon discharge.

Behavioral health care organizations, including psychiatric hospitals and general acute-care hospitals treating patients for behavioral disorders, must now identify patients at risk for suicide. In addition, home health care organizations must identify the risks associated with long-term oxygen therapy, such as home fires.

Collecting patient data linked to improving care

Hospitals and other health care organizations that collect data on patients' race, ethnicity, and language may be more likely to look at disparities in care, design targeted programs to improve quality of care, and provide patient-centered care, according to a recent article by researchers at the Health Research and Educational Trust and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

The collection of such data, however, often is fragmented and incomplete, the authors say, largely because of a lack of understanding about how best to collect the information from patients.

They outline a framework for collecting race, ethnicity, and language directly from patients, which they say is usually more accurate than staff observation. The article appears in the August issue of Health Services Research.

Ripe job market for health information coding staff?

According to a national staffing company, Kforce Professional Staffing, the national demand for health care labor coupled with the overhauling of the International Coding Directory (ICD) has created a market ready and waiting for coding professionals.

Group president of the company health information management division Sam Farrell says, "Hospitals already find it difficult to meet their needs for inpatient coders, outpatient coders, and coding managers, and now will be faced with the need to find staff who are prepared for the new ICD-10 standards…"

Inaccurate or untimely coding can cost hospitals a lot in revenue, he says, further emphasizing the demand for coders. And changes in the ICD-9 coding system, replacing it with ICD-10, compound the need for health information professionals.

Salaries have jumped in the last six years for these professionals. According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the number of positions with annual salaries exceeding $40,000 has nearly doubled.

In fact 62% of coding professionals earn between $30,000 and $50,000 per year. Nearly half (49%) of managers earn between $40,000 and $60,000. Salaries are even higher for consultants contracted by a staffing firm.