JCAHO Drafts New Medical Errors Standards
In an effort to reduce the number of medical errors, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has drafted new standards that require hospitals to inform patients and their families when they "have been hurt by a medical error," USA Today reports. The standards, which take effect Sunday, are the first to "hold hospitals accountable for a higher level of patient safety." They require that hospitals "[a]ctively work to prevent errors"; design patient safety systems, such as programs to check for drug interactions; and "act on internal reports of errors." JCAHO President Dennis O'Leary said, "These standards are meant to create a culture of safety" for patients and providers and should "promote open discussion and review of errors so that fixes can be found and applied." He added that in order to implement such patient protections, "caregivers must feel safe that they are not going to be punished and that the system is designed to protect them when they do make an error." Although the standards carry no legal weight -- hospitals cannot be sued for failing to follow them -- hospitals could risk losing accreditation from the agency, which accredits about 80% of U.S. hospitals (Davis, USA Today, 6/28). Accreditation is "the main way" hospitals become eligible to receive Medicare reimbursement (Snyder, Nashville Tennessean, 6/28). JCAHO will check to see that the standards are being followed when they conduct inspections of hospitals (USA Today, 6/28). To view the new standards, go to http://www.jcaho.org/standard/fr_ptsafety.html.
Hospital executives have promised to adhere to the new standards. Don Nielsen of the American Hospital Association said that his group is "supportive" of the standards, adding that they should not cost hospitals "anything" to implement (USA Today, 6/28). Jeff Prescott, a spokesperson for HCA-The Healthcare Company, said that many hospitals already try to notify patients and family members about medical errors. "Virtually all hospitals, in intent and in spirit, have been doing this for a long time," he said. Robert Hardin, director of medical affairs at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, said that most patients "appreciate honesty" about errors "up front," rather than being informed of mistakes "two days later" (Nashville Tennessean, 6/28). Sidney Wolfe, co-founder of the Public Citizen Health Research Group, said that hospitals that are "honest with patients" face fewer lawsuits than those who do not inform patients of mistakes (Tanner, AP/Detroit News, 6/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.