Hospitals must meet certain conditions of participation established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in order to receive Medicare payments. In 2003, most hospitals--over 80 percent--demonstrated compliance with most of these conditions through accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (Joint Commission). Established in 1986, Joint Commission Resources, Inc. (JCR), a nonprofit affiliate of the Joint Commission, provides consultative technical assistance services to hospitals. Both organizations acknowledge the need to ensure that JCR's services do not--and are not perceived to--affect the independence of the Joint Commission's accreditation process. GAO was asked to provide information on the relationship between the Joint Commission and JCR. This report describes (1) their organizational relationship, and (2) the significant steps they have taken to prevent the improper sharing of information, obtained through their accreditation and consulting activities, respectively, since JCR was established. GAO reviewed pertinent documents, including conflict-of-interest policies and information about the organizations' financial relationship, and interviewed staff and board members from both organizations, JCR clients, and CMS officials.
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