Joint Commission Announces Home Care Safety Goals

OAK BROOK TERRACE, Ill. — The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations recently announced the 2007 National Patient Safety Goals and related requirements for each of its accreditation programs and its Disease-Specific Care certification program. The goals and requirements, recently approved by the Joint Commission's Board of Commissioners, apply to the nearly 15,000 Joint Commission-accredited and certified health care organizations and programs.

Major changes in this fifth annual issuance of National Patient Safety Goals include the extension of a requirement that accredited organizations define and communicate the means for patients and their families to report concerns about safety across all Joint Commission accreditation and certification programs, including home care. The requirement is the central expectation of the goal: "Encourage patients' active involvement in their own care as a patient safety strategy."

For home care organizations, a corresponding requirement under this goal stipulates that these organizations are to identify risks associated with long-term oxygen therapy, such as home fires. Specifically, the agency reports that nearly 43 percent of all sentinel events reported by home care programs were due to a fire in the patient's home. Since April 1997, 11 sentinel events were received and reviewed by the Joint Commission related to home health care patients who were either injured or killed as a result of a fire in the home. In each case, home oxygen was in use.

In response, the Joint Commission recommends home safety risk assessment including checking for smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and fires safety plans.

Others issues outlined in the document include encouraging patients' active involvement in their own care, improving the effectiveness of communication among caregivers and reducing the risk of harm resulting from falls.

"The 2007 National Patient Safety Goals target critical areas where patient safety can be improved through specific actions in health care organizations," says Dennis S. O'Leary, M.D., president, Joint Commission. "Organizations that truly integrate these requirements into their daily operations will realize major opportunities to improve patient safety."

The full text of the 2007 Goals and Requirements is posted on the Joint Commission Web site, www.jointcommission.org/PatientSafety/NationalPatientSafetyGoals/.

This article originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of HME Business.

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