Joint Commission

The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit group in the United States that administers voluntary accreditation programs for hospitals and other healthcare organizations. The commission develops performance standards that address crucial elements of operation, such as patient care, medication safety, infection control and consumer rights.

Most state governments require that healthcare organizations receive Joint Commission accreditation as a condition for licensing and Medicaid reimbursement. Also, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recognizes the results of Joint Commission surveys, meaning healthcare facilities that receive Joint Commission accreditation can participate in the federal Medicare program. Organizations that are not surveyed by the Joint Commission or other accrediting group can choose a CMS survey as part of their Medicare participation requirements.

The Joint Commission presently accredits more than 20,500 healthcare programs and organizations in the U.S. To keep its Joint Commission accredited status, a healthcare organization is subject to an onsite evaluation performed by a Joint Commission survey group at least every three years. Laboratories must undergo reviews every two years.

Joint Commission surveys are individually designed for organizations and are meant to guide and evaluate the organization's performance in the areas of patient safety, treatment and care quality. From 18 to 36 months after a full Joint Commission survey, accredited organizations can have an unannounced survey.

The Joint Commission standards function as the foundation for healthcare organizations to gauge and enhance their performance. These standards focus on quality care and patient safety. The Joint Commission develops standards criteria based on feedback and interactions with consumers, healthcare professionals and government agencies. The standards go through a comprehensive development process, which includes conversations with advisors, preparation of draft standards and reviews by outside experts. Prospective standards are also published on the Joint Commission's website and made available for public comment before being approved by the group's board of commissioners.

The Joint Commission accredits the following types of organizations:

  • General, psychiatric, children's, rehabilitation and critical access hospitals
  • Home care organizations, including medical equipment services, pharmacy and hospice services
  • Nursing homes and other long term care facilities
  • Behavioral healthcare organizations and addiction services
  • Ambulatory care providers, including group practices and office-based surgery practices
  • Independent or freestanding clinical laboratories

The Joint Commission also certifies the following services offered at healthcare organizations:

  • Disease-specific care certification
  • Advanced certification in disease-specific care and palliative care
  • Certification for healthcare staffing services
  • Behavioral health and primary care medical home certification (for behavioral health facilities and ambulatory care facilities, hospitals and critical access hospitals)

The Joint Commission was founded in 1951 as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. In 1953, JCAH began accrediting hospitals. The Social Security Amendments of 1965 passed by Congress stated that hospitals accredited by JCAH were permitted to participate in the Medicaid and Medicare programs. In 1987, it became the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). In 2007, the JCAHO name was shortened to The Joint Commission.

The Joint Commission's corporate members include the American College of Physicians, the American College of Surgeons, the American Dental Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association. The Board of Commissioners overseeing the organization includes a consumer advocate, administrators, employers, educators, quality experts, as well as doctors and nurses.

Joint Commission Resources (JCR), a global affiliate group, oversees Joint Commission International (JCI). Joint Commission International works with many types of healthcare organizations around the world with a goal of helping them advance achieve safe and quality patient care, by providing advisory assistance, accreditation and certification. The Joint Commission founded JCI in 1994.

This was last updated in July 2015

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