Leadership Letter from Harold E. Ray, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer
Harold E. Ray, MD
Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Offi
Dear Catholic Health Initiatives Family: The fact that Catholic Health Initiatives is a network of health care providers delivers significant benefits to us all, not the least of which is that we can be surveyed by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) as a multihospital system. This brings greater consistency to the surveys conducted at our market-based organizations and allows our directors of quality improvement to act efficiently and effectively as internal consultants to market-based leaders in their continual compliance efforts. All market-based organizations should be aware of two developments in JCAHO standards that are part of an increasing focus on patient safety. A new standard for physician health that will become effective January 1, 2001, requires hospitals to establish a physician health process that is separate from the medical staff disciplinary function. The idea is to improve patient safety by assuring physician health and to provide assistance, rather than discipline, to physicians with physical, psychiatric or emotional illnesses. A second proposed standard, now under review, would require hospitals to implement organization-wide integrated safety programs to reduce medical errors as well as near misses. The standard calls for an upfront approach to preventing such errors and near misses, not just a method for reacting to them. This greater focus on patient safety comes at a time of media reports on medical errors and employer demands for increased safety measures within U.S. hospitals. Catholic Health Initiatives has already taken some important steps to increase patient safety, including the removal of concentrated potassium injectables from patient care units and the formation of our national Patient Safety Task Force. In the months ahead, this task force will identify new ways for market-based organizations to improve patient safety. Watch for news of their recommendations, which will not only reduce the potential for errors, but will increase the quality of patient care within our system.