8.JUN.2017 7 MIN READ | 7 MIN READ

In Singapore where healthcare quality is highly regarded and maintained, we may seldom question the standard of healthcare in our hospitals.

Have do you determine the quality of healthcare provided by different hospitals?

One way of doing so is by looking out for accreditation seals. Simply put, accreditation seals are seals awarded by organisations specialised in assessing the quality of hospitals. Hospitals accredited with these seals usually live up to internationally recognised standards.

Why do accreditation seals matter?

If a hospital is accredited, it means that the hospital has been thoroughly assessed and found to have met rigorous evidence-based standards. In the process of accreditation, these hospitals would have had to constantly assess and improve their existing systems and structures (eg. admission procedure, patient care experience).

Only hospitals who meet the standards receive an accreditation seal, an indication of their quality.

The Joint Commission International (JCI) seal

JCI accreditation gold sealThe JCI seal can be said to be the most prestigious of all accreditation seals. A leader of healthcare accreditation, JCI assesses the commitment of healthcare organisations to quality healthcare and patient safety.

Hospitals typically spend 18 – 24 months preparing for the assessment, during which they embark on a rigorous 10-step process to assess and upgrade the various systems in place (eg. measures for containing infection, contingency plans etc.) to meet the strictest requirements.

How does JCI assess quality?

Patient-centred standards
This is where patient care, experience and safety is assessed.

During the assessment, a consultant will be on the site to follow the entire process of care of selected patients from the point of admission to the point of discharge. The consultant will

  • Observe the care, experience, treatment and services for a sample of patients from admission to discharge
  • Review patients’ records
  • Interview the staff, patients, and patients’ families
  • Identify performance issues in the patient care process

Healthcare organisation and management standards
This is where the organisation is assessed for

  • Quality improvement and patient safety
  • Prevention and control of infection
  • Governance, leadership and direction
  • Facility management and safety
  • Staff qualifications and education
  • Management of information

During the assessment, JCI consultants will

  • Review policies, procedures, clinical practice guidelines and other documents provided by the organisation
  • Track the system for medicine management, infection control and data management
  • Evaluate the overall efficacy of the organisation's processes 
  • Conduct interviews and self-assessments

Ultimately, JCI accredited hospitals

  • Comply with JCI standards and International Patient Safety Goals (IPSG)
  • Adhere to the organisation's policies and implement procedures consistently
  • Communicate effectively within and between departments
  • Have competent staff and good workload capacity
  • Have a safe environment for patients, visitors and staff

To keep up with the ever-changing standards of healthcare, hospitals would have to apply for re-accreditation every 3 years. The JCI standards are also constantly refined based on international field reviews and input from experts with unique content knowledge.

What the JCI accreditation seal means for you

The JCI accreditation is helmed as the gold standard of healthcare. It reflects the organisation's commitment to achieve and maintain high performance standards.

As a patient, you may see the gold seal on the premises or communication materials of JCI-accredited organisations such as Mount Elizabeth Hospitals. It is regarded as a sign of the organisation’s commitment to deliver quality care with patient safety at the forefront.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) accreditation

ISO 9001The most common and well-known ISO standard is probably the ISO 9001, a general quality management system standard that can be applied to healthcare. Hospitals with ISO 9001 accreditation are committed to implementing the most effective and efficient system to the benefit of patients.

Hospitals who are accredited with ISO 9001 should have:

  • Patient-centred service at a reasonable cost
  • The ability to deliver a consistent level of quality by having well defined and regularly reviewed processes and procedures
  • Continuous quality improvement implemented throughout the organisation
  • Clear communication with patients
  • Reliable diagnostic and laboratory support
  • Reliable support services (eg. ambulance service, pharmacy)
  • A safe environment for patients, visitors and staff
  • Qualified and service-oriented staff

The path to accreditation would also require hospitals to review their existing systems and upgrade them to meet ISO standards.

Awards recognised by the Ministry of Health

The quality of healthcare is only as good as the healthcare workers in the hospitals. Doctors and nurses who are recipients of prestigious awards are likely to be top in their field, and have provided excellent care to patients. But which awards are a reliable indicator of quality? Here's a list of awards recognised by the Ministry of Health (MOH) of Singapore.

  • National Medical Excellence Awards (NMEA)

    Consisting of 6 categories of awards, these national awards are given to outstanding healthcare professionals who have contributed to the advancement of healthcare, improved the standards of patient safety, and provided quality care.

  • Singapore Health Quality Service Award

    Key to your recovery is also the care given to you by healthcare workers. This award is the first in Singapore to honour healthcare professionals who deliver top-notch care and first-rate service to patients.

  • President’s Award for Nurses

    This national award is given to recognise outstanding nurses and laud them for their immense contribution to the profession and the community.

  • Nurses’ Merit Award
  • This is awarded to nurses who have constantly performed above expectations for 3 consecutive years, actively sought to develop themselves professionally and made contributions to the nursing profession.

    If you’re undecided between the many hospitals in Singapore, start by researching what the different hospitals can offer. Check to see if the hospitals are recipients of any quality seals, and if they have recognised healthcare specialists in the field you require treatment in. If they do, you can be certain when you enter the hospital that you’ll be in good hands.


    Article reviewed by Dr Samuel Low, medical reviewer at Health Plus

    References

    Factors influencing healthcare service quality. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4122083/

    Patient Safety, Accreditation Resources, Quality Improvement, Health Care Consulting | Joint Commission International. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.jointcommissioninternational.org/

    The Gold Seal of Approval | WorldHospitalSearch.org. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.worldhospitalsearch.org/the-value-of-jci-accreditation/what-is-the-gold-seal-of-approval/

    8.JUN.2017