This is a transcript of my podcast interview with Karen Timmons from Joint Commission International. We discussed medical tourism and the role of hospital accreditation.
David Williams: This is David Williams, CEO of MedTripInfo.com. I spoke recently with Karen Timmons, President and CEO of Joint Commission International. JCI is part of JCAHO, the leading accreditation arm for US hospitals. International hospitals seek accreditation to demonstrate quality, and JCI accreditation is considered a seal of approval by medical travelers from the US.
In our discussion, Karen shared her thoughts on medical travel and the quality of overseas hospitals. She also provided tips for would be medical travelers.
Karen, thanks very much for joining me today.
Karen Timmons: Glad to be with you.
David: Karen, what is the Joint Commission International, and what does it mean to have JCI accreditation?
Karen: We are a major division of the Joint Commission, which is the largest accreditor here in the United States. But outside of the United States, we provide technical assistance, education, publications, and accreditation services. Our mission is to improve the quality and safety of patient care to the international community.
David: As part of the Joint Commission, are the standards that you’re working with for accreditation overseas, are they the same as the ones in the US, or are they different in some ways?
Karen: No, they are different. When we first started providing services internationally, many of the organizations who had already worked with us on a technical assistance consulting basis on their journey to improve their performance towards approved quality and safety, their logical next step was to seek accreditation, and many sought to do that.
Really, the desire for accreditation poses a dilemma for us, since the only standards available were those that are domestic, and we were very concerned that the standards in the domestic area contained national and cultural considerations. They were filled with American jargon and referenced US organizations, such as the National Fire Protection Association, which does not really have an international equivalent.
So we determined that the existing Joint Commission standards should not be used, and developed a set of international standards that could be applied to various health care systems and that would be sensitive to unique cultural issues.
We established an international task force comprised of 18 experts, representing all five major regions around the globe. We tested the standards to ensure their appropriateness as well as their achievability.
We convened special task forces on issues such as patient and family rights and facility management and safety, which were particularly sensitive to develop an international standard that would be applicable, in order to obtain a clearer understanding of what was a realistic expectation in these areas, and reflecting the wide disparity of practice due to cultural and regional differences.
So, we feel that our standards are comparable, but different.
For the full transcript and audio, please visit MedTripInfo.August 3, 2007