JCAHO issues imposter alert

An accreditation agency said hospitals should check surveyors' credentials before allowing an inspection.

By Damon Adams — Posted April 11, 2005

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The next time an inspector visits your hospital, you might want to check the person's ID badge.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations is warning hospitals to watch out for people pretending to be JCAHO surveyors. The Joint Commission recently issued the alert after phony inspectors paid visits to three hospitals.

JCAHO was concerned enough to contact the FBI. Last year, officials warned medical facilities that they could be targets of terrorist attacks.

The first imposters, a man and a woman, struck in late February, when they visited a hospital in Los Angeles about 3 a.m. and wanted access. "When pressed by security [for proper ID], they abruptly said, 'You know what, I think we're at the wrong facility,' and turned and left," said Joe Cappiello, JCAHO's vice president of accreditation field operations.

Days later, a man tried the same tactic at 3 a.m. at a Boston hospital before leaving when security sought appropriate ID. JCAHO then issued an e-mail alert, advising facilities to carefully check credentials of anyone claiming to be a JCAHO surveyor.

There was a third incident in mid-March when a woman roamed a Detroit hospital. She claimed to be a JCAHO official when the hospital staff stopped her. The pretender fled when staff threatened to call security. JCAHO then issued a second alert.

Cappiello has talked to several state counterterrorism groups about the bogus surveyors. New Jersey authorities issued a warning for state and local government agencies to be on watch for imposters.

JCAHO posted a facsimile of its ID badge on a secure Web site for hospitals to review. The organization also is asking hospitals to contact JCAHO if they encounter anyone suspicious.

"We told our own staff, expect to be challenged [by hospitals for ID]," Cappiello said.

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