Joint Commission Leaders Call On Physicians for New Approach to Quality & Safety Improvement

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As the healthcare industry continues to adapt to the changing environment, new approaches to quality of care and patient safety are necessary, according to the latest guidance from healthcare safety experts. In the May 12, 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a Viewpoint co-authored by The Joint Commission’s President and CEO, Mark R. Chassin, MD, FACP, MPP, MPH, and Executive Vice President for Healthcare Quality Evaluation, David W. Baker, MD, MPH, calls on physicians to acquire the skills necessary to become leaders for quality improvement and safety in an increasingly complex [healthcare] environment.

The Joint Commission’s Viewpoint, “Aiming Higher to Enhance Professionalism: Beyond Accreditation and Certification,” discusses the topic of governance and professionalism in medicine. The Joint Commission’s recent Viewpoint echoes the opinion of healthcare experts like Dr. David Nash, keynote speaker at the 2014 National Association Medical Staff Services Educational Conference. “We need more leadership for physicians,” Dr. Nash stated during his keynote speech.

Here’s a recap of The Joint Commission’s Viewpoint and how physicians can take on more leadership roles in order to improve quality of care and patient safety.

The Changing, Collaborative Environment for Physicians

With government officials and private organizations assessing physician quality and consumers demanding greater accountability, the days where physicians worked in isolation are no more. As the industry continues to evolve, it is becoming far more common for physicians to practice in teams within complex healthcare organizations. The latest studies indicate that physician employment is on the rise and physicians are increasingly less likely to work independently in a private practice. Additionally, with the option to participate in affordable care organizations (ACOs), working in teams is the way of the future. In their Viewpoint, Drs. Chassin and Baker wrote, “the quality and safety of [healthcare] depend on all team members and the system in which they work.”

Why Greater Physician Leadership is Necessary

The tools provided by accrediting and certifying organizations such as The Joint Commission can help physicians with self-governance, but they are inadequate to meet the industry’s current quality of care and patient safety challenges. “Physicians could make a much stronger case for continued self-governance if they took a more visible and rigorous leadership role in efforts that led to major improvements in the quality and safety of patient care,” Drs. Chassin and Baker wrote. “Consistent excellence must become the norm within individual organizations and across the delivery system if the medical profession is to regain its reputation as a responsible steward of [healthcare].”

Today, healthcare is simply too complex for a single physician’s isolated efforts. With working in teams and collaboration becoming the new norm, it’s important that physicians take on a stronger leadership role in order to advance quality of care and safety.

3 Challenges and Opportunities for Physician Leadership

According to The Joint Commission, physicians will need to acquire new skills and take on new responsibilities in order to meet the goals of continued quality and safety improvement. Here are three key challenges and opportunities from Drs. Chassin’s and Baker’s Viewpoint that affect physicians and healthcare organizations:

  1. Establish a clear goal: It’s important to state simply and clearly that the ultimate goal is zero harm for patients and [healthcare] workers.
  2. Learn more effective methods: “Physicians and healthcare organizations should master the tools, methods, and science that businesses outside of [healthcare] have proven to be capable of facilitating the magnitude of improvement envisioned by this goal,” Drs. Chassin and Baker wrote.
  3. Recognize excellence: Accrediting and certifying organizations must develop new programs and activities designed to foster, identify, and publicly recognize consistent excellence.

While the last challenge depends on organizations such as The Joint Commission to develop these programs, physicians and healthcare organizations must work with them in order to continuously improve healthcare. With these challenges in mind, physicians must take on more leadership in order to significantly reduce patient harm. 

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