April 13, 2009

Ombuds Help Hospitals Meet Joint Commission Standards

An article in a leading healthcare industry magazine explains that hospitals should consider creating an Ombuds program to comply with a newly-enacted requirement to manage conflict -- Joint Commission standard LD.02.04.01. Among other things, the conflict management process must include: Identifying the conflict as early as possible by meeting with involved parties; Gathering information about the conflict; Working with involved parties to manage or resolve the conflict; and Ensuring the quality and safety of patient care.

Laurie Patterson, Ombuds at the Akron General Medical Center, believes that hospitals continue to rely on HR processes for short-term dispute resolution. Rosalind Cresswell, an Ombuds at North Shore Medical Center in Salem, explains that HR processes do not provide the best tools for conflict. Ombuds, on the other hand, “give people the off-the record freedom to work through difficult situations,” says Patterson. Without this confidential, informal avenue, many healthcare workers will develop avoid conflict through elaborate workarounds that can lead to stress and burnout. In addition to compliance issues, consultant John Zinsser says that Ombuds programs can provide hospitals with substantial savings by reducing employee-initiated lawsuits. (Medical Staff Briefing [sub. req.])

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