Today, in his column “Thinking Aloud” that appears in Tanzania’s local daily, The Citizen,  every Thursday,  Zulfiqarali Premji, retired Professor of the  Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (Muhas), asks: Do we need international healthcare accreditation?

Debate is raging about the effectiveness of international accreditation. It seems there is a hidden motive to get international accreditation, which is to use it as a marketing strategy,” he argues.

He begins: Providing healthcare, especially quality healthcare of an adequate and acceptable standard, is a complex and challenging process. Healthcare services can be provided either by the public sector or private sector, or by a combination of both.

Fundamentally, healthcare and hospital accreditation is about improving how care is delivered to patients and the quality of the care they receive. Accreditation has been defined as “A self-assessment and external peer assessment process used by healthcare organisations to accurately assess their level of performance in relation to established standards and to implement ways to continuously improve”.

Accreditation is one important component in patient safety. However, there is limited and contested evidence supporting the effectiveness of accreditation programmes.

We need accreditation mainly to improve patient safety, improve the pathways that provide comprehensive care and also to put a stop to some doctors acting as demigods who are beyond reproach. Accreditation is thus important and needed in all our health facilities, public and private alike.

In Tanzania, international accreditation has mainly been sought by the private health subsector, but this type of accreditation is not cheap.  It comes at a huge cost, which is quietly passed on to patients. This makes such hospitals extremely expensive, with a vast majority of Tanzanians being unable to afford treatment at these facilities.

Debate is raging about the effectiveness of international accreditation. It seems there is a hidden motive to get international accreditation, which is to use it as a marketing strategy.

Thus some hospitals go for international healthcare accreditation as a de facto form of advertising and marketing. The moment they receive certification, big posters and banners are placed along corridors and other strategic places to attract the attention of clients. In a way, this is contrary to medical ethics.

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