In 1951, the not-for-profit Joint Commission was founded with the goal of improving the quality of public health care in the United States. The organization currently accredits more than 21,000 hospitals and health care service providers, such as ambulatory services, nursing care centers, and home health care organizations.
Although accreditation by the Joint Commission is not required by law, those certified are assumed to be maintaining compliance with standards in more than 250 areas relating to patient rights and education, medication management, infection control, and staff competency.
Annual Standards and Goals
For the past 16 years, the Joint Commission has established annual patient safety goals that, according to its mission, are used to help accredited organizations address specific areas of concern. This year, there are two goals that are uniform across the board.
The first is that care providers use at least two ways to identify patients (i.e., asking for their name and date of birth), to ensure patients receive the correct medication and treatment. The second is that hand-washing guidelines that have been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are being followed as a means of preventing infection.
The remaining 2019 safety standards vary based on the program they’re recommended for.
Ambulatory Health Care
The goals for ambulatory health care include making sure that medications are being used correctly and mistakes are avoided. To address these concerns, the Joint Commission is suggesting that health care providers ensure that medications are labeled properly, and the correct procedures are being performed.
Behavioral Health Care
This year’s behavioral health care goals largely mirror those for ambulatory care. The Joint Commission further suggests that facilities take steps to identify patients and individuals who may be at risk for suicide. It has also suggested that providers record and communicate correct information about patient medications, such as how and when medications should be administered.
Critical Care Access
The Joint Commission is recommending improvements to critical care communication methods to ensure that test results are delivered to the correct person in a timely manner. It’s also suggested that alarms on medical equipment be loud enough to be heard so staff members can respond promptly.
The Joint Commission goals for home care include confirming that correct information about patients’ medications is being recorded and communicated to their primary care provider. It’s also suggested that home care providers note patients at risk of falling as a result of medication side effects, such as dizziness, so that preventive measures can be taken, and that patients who are receiving oxygen be aware of potential fire hazards.
The Joint Commission is recommending that hospital staff members ensure timely delivery of test results and that patients’ medications are being recorded and administered properly. It recommends that alarms on medical equipment be loud enough to be heard. It is also suggested that care providers identify patients at risk of suicide, and that surgical providers verify that the correct procedures are being done on the right patient before surgery begins.
The Joint Commission’s current laboratory patient safety goals include improving staff communication to ensure test results are delivered on time and making sure that CDC-recommended infection prevention measures are being followed.
Nursing Care Center
The Joint Commission recommends that nursing staff take extra measures to prevent certain types of infections, such as blood infections from central lines and urinary tract infections from the use of catheters. Identifying patients who are at risk of falling and/or developing bed sores is also among this year’s top priorities so staff members can take action to prevent these types of problems before they occur.
The Joint Commission goals for office-based surgery are largely in line with what’s been recommended for other care providers. They include making sure medications are labeled and administered properly, that measures are being taken to prevent infection before and after surgery, and that care providers verify that the correct procedure is being performed on the correct patient.
Improving Patient Safety in the Future
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