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Defining Medical Sentinel-Events

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Shedding Light on Unexpected Occurrences

[By Staff Writers]lighthouse2

According to the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations [JCAHO]:

“A sentinel event is an unexpected occurrence involving death or serious physical or psychological injury, or the risk thereof.  Serious injury specifically includes loss of limb or function. The phrase, “or the risk thereof” includes any process variation for which a recurrence would carry a significant chance of a serious adverse outcome. Such events are called “sentinel” because they signal the need for immediate investigation and response.”

About The Joint Commission

The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations is an independent, not-for-profit organization. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 15,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards.


In support of its mission to improve the quality of health care provided to the public, the Joint Commission includes the review of organizations’ activities in response to sentinel events in its accreditation process, including all full accreditation surveys and random unannounced surveys.

Sentinel Event Glossary of Terms

Link: http://www.jointcommission.org/SentinelEvents/se_glossary.htm


Of course, there are other accrediting organizations besides the JCAHO. These include DNV Healthcare Inc., a division of the Norwegian company Det Norske Veritas [DNV]. DNV has recently been charged with immediately determining if hospitals are in compliance with the Medicare Conditions of Participation [COP]. The company’s authority to accredit hospitals runs through September 26, 2012. DNV joins the American Osteopathic Association [AOA] as the only other national hospital accrediting agency approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [CMS].


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10 Responses

  1. Dr. Marcinko,

    Your January 22 post on defining Sentinel Events does not mention that Joint Commission hospital accreditation is recognized by CMS as meeting the Medicare’s Conditions of Participation. The Joint Commission has held this federal “deeming authority” since 1965. Hospitals with Joint Commission accreditation are deemed to meet the federal Conditions of Participation for the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

    The organization is now formally referred to as The Joint Commission and the acronym is no longer used.

    Thank you for your attention to this matter.

    Kenneth A. Powers
    Media Relations Manager
    The Joint Commission
    One Renaissance Blvd.
    Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
    phone: (630) 792-5175
    fax: (630) 792-4175
    email: kpowers@jointcommission.org
    Website: http://www.jointcommission.org


  2. The Joint

    It seems as though the former JCAHO is feeling some “heat”. Perhaps Kenneth A. Powers should return to the “Joint” where he belongs.

    Another Ken


  3. Kenneth A. Powers
    Media Relations Manager
    The Joint Commission
    One Renaissance Blvd.
    Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181

    The AHCJ calls for better information from Joint Commission Web site

    Did you know that the Association of Health Care Journalists has just called upon the Joint Commission to do a better and more complete job of telling the public what it knows about the quality of hospital care? In a letter, AHCJ suggests improvements to the commission’s Quality Check Web site, where many people go to find out whether to trust their local hospital.


    Thank you for your attention to this matter.

    Dr. Marcinko


  4. Kenneth A. Powers
    Media Relations Manager
    The Joint Commission

    The new company DNV joins the “Joint Commission”, and the American Osteopathic Association [AOA], as the only national hospital accrediting agency approved by CMS. The company’s authority to accredit hospitals runs through September 26, 2012.

    Video: http://www.dnv.com/industry/healthcare/hospital_accreditation/video.asp

    Thank you for your attention to this matter.

    Dr. PJ Meyers


  5. TO: Kenneth A. Powers
    Media Relations Manager
    The Joint Commission
    One Renaissance Blvd.
    Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181

    Hospital Quality Group Obscures Hospital Quality Reports, Journalists Charge


    Thank you for your attention to this matter.



  6. TO: Kenneth A. Powers
    Media Relations Manager
    The Joint Commission
    One Renaissance Blvd.
    Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181

    Dear Ken

    Did you know that the Association of Health Care Journalists has called upon the Joint Commission, the nonprofit agency that accredits hospitals, to do a better and more complete job of telling the public what it knows about the quality of hospital care?

    Yep, it is true. In a letter to Mark R. Chassin MD, the Joint Commission’s president and CEO, AHCJ suggests improvements to the commission’s Quality Check Web site, where many people go to find out whether to trust their local hospital.


    IOW: Less media relations – more transparency!

    Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA


  7. TJC

    I wonder if the name change had anything to do with Congress revoking JC’s statutory authority to accredit healthcare facilities in 2008?


    “The GAO concluded that 78% of the time The Joint Commission’s survey process did not identify serious deficiencies…informal action by CMS did not lead to improvements…”

    The Joint Commission isn’t fooling patients anymore.

    Lisa Lindell


  8. Joint Commission Says Texting Orders Is a No-No
    [But, Maybe Docs Are on to Something]

    The Joint Commission has issued a statement indicating that health care professionals should not text patient orders. It reads:

    “It is not acceptable for physicians or licensed independent practitioners to text orders for patients to the hospital or other healthcare setting. This method provides no ability to verify the identity of the person sending the text and there is no way to keep the original message as validation of what is entered into the medical record.”


    Ann Miller RN MHA


  9. New accreditation program for smaller hospitals

    Recently, the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) announced the launch of a new accreditation program for small hospitals offered through the Accreditation Association for Hospital/Health Systems Inc. (AAHHS).




  10. Cultural In-Breeding?

    The medical community’s resistance to reform is notoriously passionate.

    For example, The Joint Commission’s 2013 Annual Report points out that only 33% of the 3,300 Joint Commission-accredited hospitals have achieved the organization’s “top performer” rating. (Moreover, there are another 2,400 hospitals in the U.S. that are not even accredited by the Joint Commission.)

    And, only 182 hospitals have managed to make the list for three years in a row.



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