Last month, the U.S.’s leading accreditor of medical centers and service providers, the Joint Commission, named both Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Clara Hospital and its Behavioral Health Center a “Top Performer on Key Quality Measures.”
An independent, not-for-profit organization, the Joint Commission was created in 1951 by the American College of Surgeons, which published the first hospital accreditation standards in 1926. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies about 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States.
KP’s Santa Clara medical center was among 95 California hospitals receiving this designation. The designation recognizes hospitals with high compliance to medical “best practices” that have been demonstrated to reduce the risks of death or complications after medical procedures.
The Santa Clara medical center was recognized for outstanding use of evidence-based clinical processes that improved care for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, surgical care, stroke, maternal care during and after birth, and deep vein clots, KP Senior VP and area manager of the medical center, Chris Boyd said in a news release.
“Kaiser Permanente has a sustained focus on delivering the highest quality mental health care to our members and this recognition underscores our continuous efforts to provide the best care possible,” said KP’s Northern California Director of Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Services, Dr. Don Mordecai, in a news release last month.
The Santa Clara Behavioral Health Center provides short-term inpatient psychiatric care for 24 patients, also offering a crisis stabilization unit that can accommodate six patients. The dedicated unit reduces the time it takes for patients to receive care – as opposed to “being held” – and allows the emergency room to focus on medical emergencies. The secure, one-story secure building was built in 2010, with natural light, soothing colors, and an interior “calming garden” surrounded by group rooms, a gym, and an art room.
“We are very proud of the Behavioral Health Center and the great work it does for Kaiser Permanente members, and the “Top Performer” award for Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara hospital is also a tribute to the daily work of our doctors, nurses, and staff to provide high-quality and safe care for our patients,” said Boyd.
Twelve other KP California and Hawaii hospitals also received the Top Performer designation, as did KP Northern California’s Redwood City, Roseville, Sacramento, South Sacramento, and South San Francisco hospitals.
First awarded in 2011, the Top Performer evaluation includes almost 50 accountability measures, and Top Performer status is awarded for following specific protocols in caring for 10 conditions, including heart attack, stroke, surgery, and inpatient psychiatric services.
But are Good Processes the Same as Good Outcomes?
Not everyone endorses the Joint Commission’s Top Performer ratings.
You can’t draw an accurate picture of medical care quality from adherence to procedural checklists, despite their usefulness as operational tools, Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project Director Lisa Geffert told Modern Healthcare in 2014. Further, some indubitably good medical centers don’t make the list – possibly because they don’t apply – such as Stanford Medical Center. And retired surgeon and blogger Skeptical Scalpel points out that statistical significance – for example, reducing the number of acute asthma attacks – isn’t the same as clinical significance – reducing the occurrence of asthma symptoms to twice a week or less.
The Joint Commission isn’t deaf to these concerns. It announced in November that it wouldn’t be publishing a 2015 Top Performers list. Instead of compiling new ratings, it will be overhauling its evaluation criteria.