Urged to “Speak Up” for Safety
by Herman Rosen, M.D.
Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations
(JCAHO) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that evaluates
and accredits 18,000 health care organizations and laboratories
in the US. This includes almost 11,000 hospitals and home care
organizations, that depend upon JCAHO approval so they can receive
Medicare and other insurance fees. The nation’s oldest and largest
standards-setting and accrediting body in health care, was founded
in 1951. It seeks to continuously improve the safety and quality
of care provided to the public.
The Illinois-based organization is currently launching a campaign
to get patients involved in preventing health care errors, “Everyone
has a role to play in preventing health care errors,” says Dennis
S. O’Leary, M.D., President, JCAHO. “Physicians, health care executives,
nurses and other health care workers are already working hard
to address this on-going problem. It is now time for patients
themselves to become part of this effort.” The magnitude of this
problem was pointed out in a 1999 report of the prestigious Institute
of Medicine, suggesting that errors in health care may be responsible
for 98,000 deaths annually. While some progress has been made
in reducing this toll, there is evidence that errors continue
to endanger patients.
The program sponsored by the JCAHO encourages patients to become
involved, informed and active members of the health care team,
to help prevent errors. They are urged to “Speak Up:”
up if you have questions or concerns, and if you don’t understand,
ask again. It’s your body and you have a right to know.
attention to the care you are receiving. Make sure you’re getting
the right treatments and medications by the right health care
professionals. Don’t assume anything.
yourself about your diagnosis, the medical tests you are undergoing,
and your treatment plan.
a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate.
what medications you take and why you take them. Medication errors
are the most common health care errors.
a hospital, clinic, surgery center, or other type of health care
organization that has undergone a rigorous on-site evaluation
against established state-of-the-art quality and safety standards,
such as that provided by JCAHO.
in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the
health care team.
JCAHO also maintains a comprehensive database on adverse events
caused by medical errors, including detailed information on their
underlying causes. The information is a basis for the JCAHO’s
issuance of alerts to health care organizations offering practical
advice on how to avoid specific kinds of errors.
Specific information for patients to help make their health care
safe can be obtained on the JCAHO website, www. jcaho.org
or by calling 630-792-5800.#
Herman Rosen is Clinical Professor of Medicine at Weill Medical
College of Cornell University.
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