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Clinical indicators in accreditation: an effective stimulus to improve patient care

BRIAN T. COLLOPY
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/intqhc/12.3.211 211-216 First published online: 1 June 2000

Abstract

The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) established the Care Evaluation Program (CEP) of clinical performance measures in its accreditation program to increase the clinical component of that program and to increase medical practitioner involvement in formal quality activities in their health care organizations. From the introduction of a set of generic indicators in 1993 the program expanded through all of the various medical disciplines and from January 2000 there will be 18 sets (well over 200 indicators) in the program. More than half of Australia's acute hospitals (covering the majority of patient separations) are monitoring the indicators and reporting clinical data twice yearly to the ACHS. In turn they receive a 6-monthly feedback of aggregate and peer comparative results. The ACHS policy had no specific requirement for a set number of indicators to be monitored and it was not mandatory to achieve any specific data threshold to be accredited. However, where an organization's results differed unfavorably from those of its peers some action was expected. Qualitative information is also sent to the CEP and this has enabled a determination of the effectiveness of the indicators. There is documented evidence of improved management and numerous examples of improved patient outcomes. The program remains unique in the scope of the medical disciplines covered and in the formal provider involvement with indicator development. Both the clinical component of accreditation and clinician involvement in quality activities have been increased in an educational process. However, not all of the indicators are of equal value and a reduction in the number of indicators to a «core» group of the most reliable and responsive ones is in process.