JCAHO alters goal about standard abbreviations

JCAHO recently altered the 2005 requirements for meeting National Patient Safety Goal 2b that requires organizations to standardize abbreviations, acronyms, and symbols used throughout the organization, including a list of abbreviations, acronyms, and symbols not to use.

JCAHO modified the goal so that it applies only to orders and medication-related documents, a reduced requirement. The goal applies to preprinted forms, for which 100% compliance is expected. This change extends the requirement beyond handwritten documentation, but it is a reduced requirement from that originally planned for 2005.

The minimum expected level of compliance for handwritten documentation remains at 90%, JCAHO explains. In 2001, the Joint Commission issued a Sentinel Event Alert on the subject of medical abbreviations and implemented the National Patient Safety Goal as an accreditation requirement in 2003.

During 2003 surveys, approximately 15% of accredited organizations were found to be out of compliance with the abbreviations requirement. In 2004, the Joint Commission sought to further address this issue by issuing a "minimum list" of dangerous abbreviations, acronyms and symbols that must not be used.