The Joint Commission, in its fourth annual report, found continual improvement on 12 quality measures reflecting the best evidence-based treatments and practices leading to the best outcomes in American hospitals .
Over the course of a seven-year period (2002-2008), various measures were assessed by the commission and improvement rates on these measures ranged from 4.9 percent to 58.8 percent in the U.S.
The report highlighted five new measures that were introduced in 2008. Also, 13 additional hospital performance measures improved this year, while two were noted as having decreased in performance.
The commission found:
- Accredited hospitals have "significantly improved" the quality of care provided to heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia patients over a seven-year period;
- Hospitals have "steadily improved" on individual surgical care performance measures as well as on additional individual heart attack and pneumonia care measures over a two to three or four-year period;
- Hospital performance on two individual measures of quality relating to inpatient care for childhood asthma is "excellent" after only one year of measurement;
- Improvement is still needed for various measures; and
- Where a patient receives care makes a difference.
Despite the overall quality measure improvements, the report noted two areas in which “improvement was still needed.” These care measures included the measuring of oxygen in the blood for pneumonia patients, which saw a decrease from 99.8 percent in 2007 to 99.7 percent in 2008, and antibiotic administration to pneumonia patients in the intensive care unit within 24 hours decreased from 63.9 percent in 2007 to 60.3 percent in 2008.
"Quality improvement is an important aspect of the ongoing reform effort to make healthcare accessible to more Americans and ‘bend the curve' on increasing costs," said Mark Chassin, president of the Joint Commission. “By eliminating the preventable complications that today drive up the cost of care, we would easily save the many billions of dollars lawmakers are struggling so hard to locate."
More than 3,000 accredited hospitals contributed data to this year’s report. As of 2010, the commission will cover 31 measures, eight of which relate to heart attack care, four to heart failure, nine to pneumonia, eight to surgical care and two to children’s asthma care.
"The data in this report show steady improvement over time on vitally important measures of quality," said Chassin. "Furthermore, (w)ith more than 95 percent of hospitals now exceeding 90 percent performance on some measures, we are beginning to see the kind of consistent excellence to which we aspire for all of healthcare."