The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAH) has continuously emphasized improvement in the quality of care provided in hospitals as the central purpose of the accreditation process. In striving to assure such improvement, the JCAH has stressed the need for, and the responsibility of, the medical and other professional staffs to provide continuing review and evaluation of patient care. In recent years, quality assessment activities have evolved, proliferated and matured to the extent that they require a purposeful integration if they are to effect sustained improvement in patient care and clinical performance. To assist hospitals in the coordination or integration of quality assessment activities, the Board of Commissioners of the JCAH has approved an important new quality assurance standard. Significant requirements of the new standard are a comprehensive quality assurance program, a written plan, a problem-focused approach to the review and evaluation of patient care and clinical performance, an annual reassessment of the program, and an improvement in patient care or clinical performance. The new standard reflects the JCAH belief that an integrated, problem-focused approach to quality assurance will significantly improve the quality of care provided throughout a hospital. Such an approach recognizes the interdependence of hospital departments and services in the provision of patient care, and, therefore, requires a purposeful integration or coordination of quality assessment data and activities. Consequently, quality assessment data may be utilized effectively and efficiently, and many potentially useless or duplicative quality assessment activities can be eliminated. The new standard affords hospitals considerable flexibility in the manner in which they implement and administer the program and encourages innovation.