The Joint Commission will strengthen health equity standards within its hospital accreditation programs and launch a certification focused on disparities in patient care.
The nonprofit accrediting agency added mandates on strategy and data collection for health system leaders earlier this year, including standards on screening patients for social determinants of health and stratifying safety and quality data by race and ethnicity. Beginning Saturday, those standards will be designated as national patient safety goals.
The goals are the commission’s way of emphasizing the urgency and importance of addressing opportunities to improve safety and quality, said president and CEO Dr. Jonathan Perlin.
The certification and enhanced standards come as the organization works to overhaul its standards in an effort to refocus hospital safety and quality goals and decrease the administrative burden.
Hospitals and critical access facilities will also have the option to pursue a certification that looks to coordinate and standardize work towards ending health disparities. Standards for the Health Care Equity Certification emphasize leadership, data collection, community collaboration and patient care.
“The certification program will distinguish those organizations making health care equity a strategic priority by collaborating with patients, families and caregivers and with external organizations to identify community-level needs to support achieving equitable health outcomes,” Perlin said.
Accredited organizations seeking certification must designate an officer to oversee a health equity strategy. Part of that strategy should include collecting sociodemographic data on patients and staff to identify disparities in hiring and patient care and collaborating with local communities. The program also requires organizations to track their progress.
Perlin said the optional certification creates more rigorous guidelines than the health equity standards mandated within accreditation programs. For example, organizations seeking certification will have to identify community-level needs to support care delivery, collect self-reported data from patients and staff, provide enhanced training and perform more advanced data analysis.
The updated standards and certification are an important step towards achieving equitable health outcomes but do not address social issues contributing to poor health outcomes, said Duane Reynolds, chief health equity officer at The Chartis Group, a consulting firm.
“Tackling challenges such as food security, stable housing, and economic well-being will require hospitals to move beyond their typical scope of responsibility and partner with external agencies and communities to impact the non-medical root causes of health inequity,” Reynolds said in an email. “Our efforts must encompass both health care equity and health equity to truly create equitable and just systems.”