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MIT Medical Receives Highest Honor With Three Year Accreditation

David Tarin--The Tech
The Medical Center's convenient location at the east end of campus helped it attain accreditation with commendation next month.

By Carina Fung
Associate News Editor

Last month, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations awarded the MIT Medical Department the highest level of accreditation in its class.

Accreditation with commendation was awarded to MIT Medical following an on-site survey of the Medical Center conducted by JCAHO in October and November 1996.

"We are extremely pleased to have achieved this distinction," said MIT Medical Director Arthur N. Weinberg. MIT Medical was cited for its convenience and excellent care, he said.

JCAHO is the nation's oldest and largest health care accrediting body, said JCAHO Spokesperson Janet McIntyre. JCAHO accredits about 80 percent of the nation's hospitals, as well as many laboratories and nursing homes.

"MIT Medical has now earned this highest level of accreditation for a second three-year period," Weinberg said. Accreditations are always awarded for three-year periods.

MIT Medical has always been accredited by JCAHO, but has only achieved the highest honor of commendation for the last two three-year periods, Weinberg said.

This honor is shared by 10 percent of the 5,200 hospitals seeking accreditation, including the nearby Beth Israel-Deaconess, he said. MIT Medical received a final grade of 96 out of a possible 100, according to McIntyre.

The impact of accreditation

"Receiving accreditation with commendation is a significant achievement, one that recognizes the exemplary performance by MIT Medical," said President of JCAHO Dennis S. O'Leary.

"The organization [MIT Medical] should be commended for its commitment to providing quality care to the people in the MIT community," he said.

MIT Medical was judged using the same standards that apply to the largest teaching hospitals in the country. "Receiving this honor is clear evidence of the exceptional care that MIT Medical provides to MIT students, MIT Health Plan members, and others in the MIT community," Weinberg said.

"Through the team effort of the Medical Department involving its leadership and its employees, we were able to score very highly [in the JCAHO evaluation]," said Chief of Pediatrics and Student Health Services Mark A. Goldstein.

Well-known local institutions such as the Children's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital did not pass JCAHO's evaluation with commendation, Goldstein said.

"JCAHO recognition confirms my impression of the excellence of the work being done by the Medical Department staff, and their commitment to care," said Executive Director of MIT Medical Annette Jacobs.

Students show dissatisfaction

MIT Medical's most positive features include excellent care from doctors and nurses, a supportive Inpatient Unit and Mental Health Department, and its convenience, Weinberg said.

However, students expressed opinions that MIT Medical needs improvement in some areas. MITMedical is convenient, since all its facilities are concentrated in one building, said Mary Y. Ying '98. However, seeing a different doctor for each visit, instead of her assigned physician, was bothersome, Ying said.

Clare A. Epstein G felt that the doctor with whom she had an appointment was "lacking in personal skills." Epstein did commend the convenience of the Medical Center's pick-up pharmacy, and its option for students to call-ahead for prescriptions to be picked up at a later time.

Ricardo Olivares G commented that the doctor he saw rushed through the examination. "I went to the Med Center with a common cold, and the doctor tried to prescribe me an antibiotic that was only being tested out at that point, though I did not feel it was necessary," said Rupa M. Bhagwat G.

Hopefully, MIT Medical will be able to respond to these concerns. "It would be helpful to hear these opinions and therefore understand why students are dissatisfied. We want to be competent and helpful for everyone, especially students," Weinberg said.

Accreditors evaluate many factors

MIT Medical was evaluated along with other ambulatory care programs. This category includes student health departments, migrant clinics, military clinics, ambulatory surgical centers, and other community health centers, McIntyre said.

There are currently a total of 500 ambulatory care institutions which are accredited. Participating in an accreditation process is voluntary, McIntyre said.

Three surveyors including a clinician, an administrator, and a nurse were on-site for two days, interviewing staff and inspecting the medical department. The surveyors primarily investigated patient care delivery, record keeping, and quality improvement issues, Weinberg said.

Additional areas which were researched were infection control, emergency services, the physical safety of the Medical Center's environment, and the functionality of medical equipment, McIntyre said.

"With some of the other members of pediatrics, we showed them [the surveyors] our waiting room, examining rooms, and equipment. They reviewed and commented on our records, and even interviewed some of our patients' parents," Goldstein said.

Institutions are evaluated on about 300 different standards designed to improve providing quality care, McIntyre said.

JCAHO plans to publish performance reports containing detailed information on the survey results of accredited institutions, comparing them to other evaluated sites, she said.

Future improvements planned

"I want to thank everyone here at MIT Medical who worked together to make this achievement possible, by providing the best possible health care for our patients," Weinberg said. "But we are not going to rest on our laurels. This is just an incentive to continue to improve our services," Goldstein said.

For instance, MIT Medical is further improving its information systems so that physician reports and finances can be easily tracked, Weinberg said. MIT Medical also has a number of new physicians, nurse clinicians, and is continually working on quality improvement projects, he said.