Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Joint Commission (finally) Accredits Hospital Based Palliative Care Programs

In what has been an on-again off-again story of 5+ years that was beginning to seem like an unattainable holy grail, the Joint Commission has finally issued a press release stating in Fall 2011 they will be recognizing hospitals with exceptional palliative care programs with an emphasis on:
  • A formal, organized palliative care program led by an interdisciplinary team whose members possess the requisite expertise in palliative care,
  • Leadership endorsement and support of the program’s goals for providing care, treatment and services,
  • A special focus on patient and family engagement,
  • Processes which support the coordination of care and communication among all care settings and providers, and
  • The use of evidence-based national guidelines or expert consensus to guide patient care.
This is really important for many reasons.  Many hospitals may claim to have palliative care teams but the members of the team, internal support and integration into hospital culture can vary widely as many who have worked with palliative care programs have seen.  No doubt we have seen large increase in the percentage of hospitals with palliative care with support from organizations like the Center to Advance Palliative Care, but The Joint Commission is the 600lb gorilla and more importantly is a non-palliative care organization to help support quality palliative care programs.

I do like the emphasis on the whole hospital program and not just the team. This may set some higher standards than all teams will be able to accomplish, but then I think that makes all of us strive to do better.  Or we can be like Lake Wobegon where everyone is above average.  I just wonder what percentage of teams will be able to achieve this certification for the hospital as a whole.  This cutoff point will be interesting to watch.

When The Joint Commission comes to your hospital, your palliative care team can get excited because now you may be the people that help the hospital achieve more recognition.  The suits in the C-Suite might find a new interest in what your program is doing and hopefully (fingers crossed) you might get the resources and staffing to achieve it!

One slight irony is the Advanced Certification for Palliative Care is housed in The Joint Commissions "Disease-Specific Programs."  Palliative care is about people, I guess we have to keep on educating.

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