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Treatment at “Accredited” Hospitals Does Not Result in Better Outcomes: Study

Hospitals certified by independent accrediting associations, such as The Joint Commission, do not appear to have better mortality rates or readmission rates, when compared to hospitals reviewed by state survey agencies, according to the findings of new research. 

In a study published last week in the medical journal The BMJ, researchers from the T. H. Chan School of Public Health found only a 0.4% difference in 30 mortality rates between hospitals accredited by The Joint Commission and those accredited by state agencies.

Researchers compared 4,400 hospitals in the United States. Of those hospitals, 3,337 were accredited. Roughly 2,800 by the Joint Commission and 1,100 accredited by state based review between 2014 and 2017. Researchers then analyzed patient records for 4.2 million patients over the age of 65, admitted for 15 common medical conditions and six common surgical conditions.

Overall, patients treated at accredited hospitals fared about the same as those at state certified hospitals. The study found only a 0.4% difference between the 30 day mortality rates between accredited hospitals, at 10.2%, and state reviewed hospitals, at 10.6%.

Similarly, the two types of hospitals had nearly identical rates of mortality for the six surgical conditions reviewed. Researchers said the differences were not “statistically significant.”

Accredited hospitals had lower readmission rates for the medical conditions at 22.4% compared to state reviewed hospitals at 23.2%. Readmission rates for the surgical conditions were also lower among accredited hospitals, with a 15.9% readmission rate compared to state reviewed hospitals, which had a 15.6% rate.

“There was no evidence in this study to indicate that patients choosing a hospital accredited by The Joint Commission confer any healthcare benefits over choosing a hospital accredited by another independent accrediting organization,” the researchers wrote.

Hospitals must renew their accreditation every three years, which can cost as much as $18,000. The Joint Commission is the country’s largest accrediting organization.

The Joint Commission responded to the study positively, emphasizing the findings indicate accreditation improves patient outcomes. In each area, The Joint Commission accredited hospitals had better scores than other hospitals.

Researchers consider the differences not statistically significant. However, the Joint Commission says the minor difference can make a significant difference to patients, resulting in 12,000 fewer deaths and 24,000 fewer readmissions.

Study authors said they hoped the findings would help improve the accreditation process and hone it toward improved patient outcomes.

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