The purpose of the Joint Commission is to improve health care by evaluating and accrediting more than 21,000 health care organizations in the United States, as of 2015, and therefore motivating them to find ways to better themselves. The Joint Commission was founded in 1951, making it the oldest standard bearer in health care, and it functions as an independent, not-for-profit institution.
To receive and maintain the Joint Commission's Gold Seal of Approval, labs undergo on-site unscheduled evaluations every two years, while all other health care organizations go through one every three years. Among the types of organizations that seek accreditation are hospitals, nursing homes, surgery centers, doctor's offices and home health care providers.
Representatives from the American Dental Association, the American Hospital Association, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Surgeons and the American Medical Association oversee the Joint Commission. Other members in a governing role include the Joint Commission president, an at-large nursing representative and six public members.
Those organizations seeking accreditation are not required by law but choose to do so with the knowledge that accreditation is a symbol of higher quality care. The desire to receive and keep good ratings encourages health care providers to go the extra mile to reach and maintain standards of excellence.