Imposters try to gain access using JCAHO name

Ask for ID, organization advises

It is apparently "imposter season" again for JCAHO inspectors, says Joe Cappiello, vice president, accreditation field services, for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization in Oakbrook Terrace, IL.

From early spring to early summer in 2005 there were around seven reported instances of imposters using the name of a JCAHO official to try to gain access to a JCAHO-accredited hospital, Cappiello notes. "Then [the occurrences] just went away. There were no reports for months."

But beginning in late March, he adds, there were suddenly two such events in California and another a week later in Wisconsin.

"They were all handled appropriately," Cappiello says. "We released [an advisory] to all our organizations and alerted the authorities. There is still no common pattern and no identified motive. That's really all I have — a mystery that continues."

Asked if he has any advice for access managers and directors, whose employees are often the first to greet hospital visitors, Cappiello says, "I would remind them that all Joint Commission surveys are unannounced, as of Jan. 1, 2006, so security and proper identification of surveyors is essential.

"Joint Commission staff will expect to be challenged when they arrive," he continues, "and [access personnel] should not hesitate to detain any person until they can can verify his or her identity."

In an e-mail alert, JCAHO advised accredited organizations to ask surveyors to show their ID badges when they arrive. Providers can verify their survey date and assigned surveyors on the JCAHO Extranet site.

The site also will contain a survey notification letter from Russell Massaro, MD, JCAHO executive vice president of accreditation operations, as well as the names, photographs, and biographies of the people who will conduct the survey, according to the JCAHO alert.

Hospital staff who encounter a possible imposter are asked to notify their local law enforcement authorities and call Cappiello at (630) 792-5757.