The moment that an accreditation team shows up unannounced can spike the pulse of even the most seasoned hospital executive. The next several days will amount to one big exam for the safety and quality of care, as surveyors meet with executives, managers and care teams, and watch first-hand as care is delivered. Make the wrong move or give a wrong answer, have them see rust on a ceiling sprinkler, and your hospital may get dinged. Get dinged too many times or have findings of serious patient risks, and your accreditation (and the federal funds attached to that) may be in jeopardy.
This is a useful and essential exercise. It makes sure that hospitals are doing what they’re supposed to. For example, do they have an infection prevention and control plan? Do they conduct fire drills? Do they inspect, test and maintain medical equipment? Do doctors sign their orders and notes?
Regulators have been innovating how they evaluate hospitals to make their reviews more meaningful and impactful for patient safety. Yet, if we truly want to strive for the best possible care, end preventable patient harm and reduce needless costs, meeting regulations alone isn’t nearly enough. Regulations may help identify the “bad apples” and ensure compliance with minimum requirements. Yet these regulations alone have not been enough to transform a health care system that still harms patients too often, improves too slowly, wastes too much and innovates too little. How do we help hospitals to excel?