Hong Kong's public hospitals will seek external accreditation for the first time, with the programme of assessments to kick off next month.
The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS), an international hospital accreditation agency, has won a tender to assess the Hospital Authority.
The council will send five to 10 hospital surveyors to the city next month to work out details of the programme with the authority.
Stephen Pang Fei-chau, the authority's quality and standards chief, said external accreditation was a global trend that helped hospitals continuously improve.
The five participating public institutions are Queen Mary Hospital, Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, Tuen Mun Hospital, Caritas Medical Centre and Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
These hospitals would first undergo a mock survey by early next year, followed by formal assessments for accreditation in about two years. Two private hospitals would also join the accreditation programme.
The authority will spend HK$10 million over three years to set up the accreditation programme, which will eventually cover all public hospitals. The assessments will look at patient safety, services outcomes, patient records, handling of medical incidents and training. The council will give out one of five grades - from 'little achievement' to 'outstanding achievement'.
The authority will later decide how to make the grades public.
Dr Pang said the authority had chosen ACHS because it was committed to helping Hong Kong train 20 hospital surveyors in three years. The trained surveyors - from various professions such as doctors, nurses or allied health workers - will be expected to conduct assessments in other countries.
Dr Pang said a selection panel would discuss whether patients' representatives could also serve as hospital surveyors.
'In the past, hospital accreditation was rather clinicians-led, now it is more patient-centred. The views and satisfaction of patients are getting more weight in the assessment. We will also monitor if the external accreditations cause extra work and anxiety among staff,' he said.
Public hospitals are subject only to self-assessment, while private hospitals subject themselves to international schemes such as ACHS, Britain's Trent Accreditation Scheme and The Joint Commission in the United States.
In the long term, the government wants to have one accreditation standard for all hospitals.