Shyama Rajagopal

Accreditation to drive healthcare system

KOCHI: Accreditation of hospitals is going to set the standards in healthcare across the country, including that in Government sector, said Thuppil Venkatesh, who is a trainer of inspectors for the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals (NABH).

By the end of the year, there are likely to be at least 30 hospitals that would be ready for accreditation, said Giridhar Gyani, secretary general of the Quality Control of India, over telephone. Ten hospitals have applied for accreditation and 12 others have taken up preparations for sending applications.

A constituent board of the Quality Council of India, the NABH will be assessing hospitals on a wide range of parameters involving 99 standards. These include not just the hospital hygiene and patient care but also a number of ways that a hospital keeps its records in various departments, including the hospital canteen to the laboratory reagents. The NABH is not a body to decide how much a hospital should charge, but that there should be a standard charge for the facilities offered by the hospital, said Prof. Venkatesh, who was in Kochi to inspect a medical laboratory.

Patients need to know the kind of services that are available in a hospital, particularly in terms of facilities and charges, said Prof. Venkatesh. The hospital is also bound to disclose all its facilities and the expected cost to the patient. If accredited, the hospital can also display the certificate. However, accreditation being an ongoing process, there cannot be complacency on the part of the hospitals, which have been accredited. It will have to undergo inspection periodically as specified by the NABH.

While applying for accreditation is entirely voluntary on the part of the hospital management, Dr. Gyani believes that the market forces will make it mandatory for all hospitals to go for it. Insurance companies are likely to tie up with accredited hospitals for paying a patient's bill. Corporates are also likely to get their medical care tie-ups with accredited hospitals.

The hospitals have to gear up for the process and it would generally take about six months to one year to prepare for accreditation. The NABH would take up accreditation for the entire healthcare system in the country.

The Health Department can apply for accreditation of its facilities in various district hospitals. The cost for accreditation is Rs.50,000 for a 50-bed hospital.

The standards prescribed by the NABH can be had from the office of Quality Control of India's office in New Delhi. One can visit the website to have a look at the standards online.