Task force will study every chapter in manual

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations’ task force will take about a year to review every chapter of accreditation standards, one by one. The first suggestions for change may come much earlier, with one chapter’s recommendations released as the task force continues its work on the next chapter.

The task force is just at the very beginning of its work, says Mark Crafton, MPA, CPHU, director of state relations for the Joint Commission. Each member of the task force just received questionnaires with a dozen questions about the first 36 standards in the manual. The first one to be addressed is the chapter concerning patient rights and organization ethics.

"The task force is asked to rate the standard on whether it’s relevant, how it contributes to good patient outcomes, how it contributes to patient safety and quality, the clarity, and how compliance can be consistently and effectively evaluated," he says. "We ask them to rate those issues on a 1 to 5 scale, and there also are some open-ended questions like, How could you best demonstrate compliance with the standard, and how does that compare to what you’re currently doing?’"

According to Crafton, the task force probably will take about eight weeks to review each chapter. All the evaluations are expected to be complete by June 2002, but the Joint Commission also will be processing the task force recommendations in the meantime.

"We will summarize the recommendations and have a meeting or conference call with the task force to get a consensus on what things we need to fix or change," Crafton says. "The standards department will go ahead and start making modifications [and] send those changes out to the field and back through the Joint Commission structure. So instead of waiting 12 months to see anything, we’ll be able to send recommendations out to the field concurrently."

The task force members are charged with representing health care providers in the field, so there is not a mechanism for people to offer suggestions on changing the standards or compliance expectations. But any of the task force’s proposed changes will appear on the Joint Commission’s web site, Crafton says, and be distributed in other ways to encourage feedback before final decisions are made.