Joint Commission Launches Certification for Hospital Palliative Care


A new Joint Commission program offering advanced certification for hospital-based palliative-care services is accepting applications and conducting daylong surveys through the end of this month. As with the Joint Commission’s reviews of other specialty services (e.g. primary stroke centers), certification is narrower in scope, with service-specific evaluation of care and outcomes, than a full accreditation survey—which is an organizationwide evaluation of core processes and functions.

Advanced certification in palliative care is voluntary for the steadily growing number of acute-care hospitals offering palliative-care services (1,568, according to the latest count by the American Hospital Association), but the hospital seeking it must be accredited by the Joint Commission.1 Certification is intended for formal, defined, inpatient palliative care, whether dedicated units or consultation services, with the ability to direct clinical management of patients.

The core palliative-care team includes “licensed independent practitioners” (typically physicians), registered nurses, chaplains, and social workers.2 The service should follow palliative-care guidelines and evidence-based practice, and it must collect quality data on four performance measures—two of them clinical—and use these data to improve performance.

According to Michelle Sacco, the Joint Commission’s executive director for palliative care, evidence-based practice includes ensuring appropriate transitions to other community resources, such as hospices. She thinks the program is perfect for hospitalists, as HM increasingly is participating in palliative care in their hospitals. “This is also an opportunity to change the mindset that palliative care is for the end-stage only,” Sacco says.

Two-year certification costs $9,655, including the onsite review. For more information, visit the Joint Commission website (www.jointcommission.org/certification) or the Center to Advance Palliative Care’s site (www.capc.org).


  1. Palliative care in hospitals continues rapid growth for 10th straight year, according to latest analysis. Center to Advance Palliative Care website. Available at: www.capc.org/news-and-events/releases/07-14-11. Accessed Aug. 30, 2011.
  2. The National Consensus Project’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care. The National Consensus Project website. Available at: www.nationalconsensusproject.org/. Accessed Aug. 31, 2011.

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