JCAHO scraps advance notice of random surveys

The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations’ (JCAHO) is wasting no time responding to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) July report that sharply criticized its oversight of hospitals. Hospitals can say goodbye to 24-hour advance notice and to notice of which standards will be reviewed, the Commission announced Aug. 4.

As of Jan. 1, 2000, hospitals will receive no advance warning about random unannounced surveys. In addition, the window of time during which they may be conducted will be nine to 30 months after the full survey conducted every three years.

JCAHO spokeswoman Donna Larkin says the next set of changes will be announced in November, but gives no specifics on what those changes might include. Meanwhile, a Health Care Financing Administration official reports that the agency’s "detailed" Hospital Oversight Plan is probably at least two weeks away from being released. That plan will expand on the version HCFA included in the OIG’s report last month.

Other immediate changes under way at JCAHO include the development of "a pre-survey information packet" that will give surveyors specific information about the hospital’s performance and allow more thorough investigation. In addition, the Joint Commission will begin pilot testing of "off-hour evaluations" during evening and weekend hours later this year.

Finally, JCAHO is working on guidelines that will permit closer scrutiny of peer review and credentialing processes, including the hospital’s definition of circumstances that prompt peer review, the participants included in that process, and the timeframes in which the review must be conducted and results reported.