Americans like to believe that they have the best hospitals and doctors available. But all providers are not created equal.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has launched a Quality Check web site that lets health care professionals and consumers compare patient care at 16,000 health care providers – including 3,300 hospitals – in their state and nationally.

Viewers select a type of provider or a type of care and can narrow their search by state, city or distance from a particular zip code. The site then searches and displays all programs that meet the selected criteria. Then, viewers can select any program to see more information about it or can select up to six programs to see them compared to each other.

Programs are compared on the basis of National Patient Safety Goals and National Quality Improvement Goals that are continually refined and developed through the JCAHO.

Safety goals relate to procedures to prevent medical errors such as miscommunication among caregivers, unsafe use of infusion pumps and medication mix-ups.

Improvement goals are optimal care procedures for treatment of the most common conditions that bring patients to a hospital:

  • heart attack
  • heart failure
  • pneumonia
  • pregnancy and related conditions

This site will help take some of the guesswork out of making healthcare choices. A patient with doctor-recommended care for one of these conditions can check the site to find a quality care facility in their community.

In 2005, the JCAHO plans to add additional categories to the site.

“Quality of care can make a difference in how well you recover from an illness or surgical procedure,” says LHSFNA Health Promotion Division Director Mary Jane MacArthur. “Always discuss your options for treatment you are currently receiving or might receive in the future with your doctor or health care provider. An informed patient is a wise healthcare consumer.”

The JCAHO is an independent, not-for-profit organization established more than 50 years ago to continuously improve the safety and quality of care provided to the public through the provision of health care accreditation and related services that support performance improvement in health care organizations. More information is available at JCAHO.

[Steve Clark]