What Does “Standard of Care” Mean for Physicians, Nurses, and Hospitals?
Blog posted by Shannon Lorbiecki
“Standard of care” has generally meant that care delivered is consistent with the highest quality of care available in the community. However recent research from the Dartmouth Atlas suggests a wide geographic variation in defining the standard.
Federal and state laws, rules and regulations, and professional organizations help define standards of care. Therefore the standards may be local, state, or national. For physicians, both state licensure and specialty specific board certifications are important mechanisms for ensuring the individual practitioner is qualified to provide care consistent with accepted standards of care.
The development of care standards across medical specialties by the medical profession has been fairly limited. The Declaration of Professional Responsibility Medicine’s Social Contract with Humanity, approved by the American Medical Association, outlines ethical responsibilities of the medical profession but does not define specific measurable standards.
Some organizations such as the Leapfrog Group have published information on patient safety measures for hospitals. However, this information focuses largely on the avoidance of negative events rather than the measurement of a particular standard of care.
Publicly available data on care by individual physicians has historically been fairly limited but is now expanding. HealthGrades.com offers some comparative information on physicians.
The nursing profession has perhaps been more aggressive in defining nursing standards of care across the profession. The ANCC Magnet Recognition Program has become the standard that many hospitals aspire to in terms of organization-wide nursing excellence.
I think there is one thing that we can count on. Pressure to define and adhere to accepted standards of care will become increasingly important. If health care providers do not take the lead in establishing those standards, they will likely be imposed through government, insurers, or others.