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Earlier this year, the board of commissioners of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) approved new standards directly focused on patient safety and medical/health care error reduction in hospitals, notes Charlene Hill, a spokeswoman for the organization.
Those standards focus, among other things, on emphasizing patient rights and the education of patients and their families, responsibilities that typically fall to the access services department. The new standards, which have an expected implementation date of July 2001, Hill says, augment the nearly 50% of existing JCAHO standards related to patient safety. Requirements for establishing ongoing patient safety programs will be added in these 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.
• Improving organization performance. Hospitals are to implement a program for proactive — before an error has occurred — assessment of high-risk activities related to patient safety and to undertake appropriate improvements.
• 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 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.
In developing the standards, Hill says, the JCAHO sought advice from a 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 standards have been posted on the JCAHO web site, www.jcaho.org, for public comment since last summer.