The Joint Commission, formerly known as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., has been empowered by Congress to ensure the quality and safety of hospitals. The commission promotes its surveys as an assurance that hospitals are clean, adequately staffed and provide high-quality care. Hospitals need this Joint Commission accreditation in order to get Medicare funding. All hospitals have to be accredited to get Medicare funding, and Joint Commission accreditation of hospitals is generally reviewed every three years. Those hospitals that do not get Joint Commission accreditation generally must be accredited by their states every year. The Joint Commission has long been regarded as the gold standard of accreditation, but now its longtime quality measures are entering a golden age of sorts because health care policymakers and the private sector are emphasizing quality measurements with special focus, pushing the Joint Commission into more of a consumer role. The Joint Commission can also do surprise inspections and its surveys can result in hospitals being stripped of Medicare funding. While this rarely happens, even the threat of a Joint Commission investigation that could result in disciplinary action for a hospital is a powerful tool, considering that Medicare accounts for 40 percent or more of most hospital revenue.
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