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Joint Commission opens center to develop patient safety solutions

Hospitals will follow an industrial approach to improve hand hygiene as well as address other problems.

By Kevin B. O’Reilly — Posted Sept. 30, 2009

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The Joint Commission has been accrediting hospitals since 1953, and in the last two decades stepped up efforts to identify issues that can harm patients, ranging from poorly deployed technology to disruptive behavior. The commission announced in September it will take a more hands-on approach, launching a center that will seek innovative patient-safety interventions.

The new Center for Transforming Healthcare, opened with $10 million in commission reserves, is working with eight hospitals and health systems on its premier project to identify and overcome barriers to 100% hand-hygiene compliance. The commission is teaming up with organizations such as Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles that already use industrial process-improvement techniques borrowed from Motorola and Toyota Motor Corp.

"Our aim is to transform health care into a high-reliability industry with rates of adverse events equal to or better than the other high-reliability industries in the world," said Joint Commission President Mark R. Chassin, MD, MPH. "We can make health care safer. Not just a little safer, but a lot safer."

The first step in the hand-hygiene project was for participating hospitals to track compliance rates. Many who thought they were doing much better found rates hovering near 50%.

Obstacles to better compliance include poor placement of sinks and dispensers and lack of places for health professionals to set down objects so they can clean their hands. Participating hospitals already have made changes, but evaluation of how well those changes worked will not be available until next year.

The center also is coordinating hospital efforts tackling wrong-site surgery and patient-handoff communications.

Sixteen hospitals and health systems are taking part in these safety projects. Solutions developed through the center may become Joint Commission requirements.

"We will look at interventions that work and that are uniformly applicable and build them into our requirements," Dr. Chassin said. "That is part of the framework for why we believe this initiative will be very effective over time."

More information is available at the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare Web site (link).

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