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The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations recently approved standards directly focused on patient safety and medical/health care error reduction in hospitals. The new standards augment the nearly 50% of current Joint Commission standards related directly to patient safety. Requirements for establishing ongoing patient safety programs in organizations accredited under the Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Hospitals will be added in the following standards areas:
• Leadership — Hospital leaders are to create an environment that encourages error identification and remedial steps to reduce the likelihood of future recurring errors. Such an environment includes minimization of individual blame or retribution for those involved in an error or in reporting an error. The focus will be on establishing an actual or virtual organizationwide patient safety program that uses internal and external knowledge and experience to prevent the occurrence of errors.
• Improving Organization Performance — Hospitals are to implement a program for proactive — that is, before an error has occurred — assessment of high-risk activities related to patient safety and undertake appropriate improvements. Those activities are to be selected by the hospital based on available knowledge and information, including information that is provided by the Joint Commission through its study of adverse events that seriously harm patients (sentinel events).
• Management of Information — Hospitals are to aggregate patient safety-related data and information to identify risk to patients; apply knowledge-based information to reduce these risks; and effectively communicate among all caregivers and others involved in patient safety issues to guide and improve professional and organizational performance.
• Other Functions — Hospitals are to place appropriate emphasis on patient safety in areas such as patient rights, education of patients and their families, continuity of care, and management of human resources. The standards state that the patient and/or the patient’s family is informed about the results of care, including unanticipated outcomes.
The anticipated implementation date for the standards is July 2001. In developing the standards, the Joint Commission sought advice from a special expert panel that included patient safety and medical/health care error reduction leaders as well as representatives from government, hospitals, insurance companies, universities, and advocacy groups.
The new standards substantially expand upon current Joint Commission standards that require health care organizations to identify, internally report, and analyze sentinel events, and take action to prevent their recurrence.