Quality of care improving in nation's hospitals.
While the quality of care at American hospitals improved significantly last year, most are still doing a poor job of reconciling patients' medications, a new Joint Commission report shows. About two-thirds, or 66%, of accredited hospitals consistently obtained and documented a list of medications being taken by patients upon admission last year, according to the report, Improving America's Hospitals: The Joint Commission's Annual Report on Quality and Safety. More than one-quarter (27.5%) failed to communicate a list of patients' medications to the next provider of service upon referral or transfer to another healthcare facility, the report states. Overall, the quality of care improved for patients who had heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia, or were undergoing surgery. "The improvements achieved have saved lives and resulted in better quality of life for thousands of patients," said Dennis S. O'Leary, M.D., president of the Joint Commission. Nearly 90% of patients treated for heart attacks, heart failure, or pneumonia received smoking-cessation advice in 2006, up from about 80% in 2005 and 37% in 2002, the report indicates. Hospitals, however, struggled last year with the National Patient Safety Goal of spelling out abbreviations, acronyms, and symbols. The level of compliance with that goal was 63.1%. The report is available at