The Joint Commission was formerly known as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, or "JCAHO" [JAY-co]. The Joint Commission is the agency that sets and enforces standards for health care organizations in the United States. More than 16,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States are accredited or certified by the Joint Commision. Written policies and expectations established by the Commission are evaluated by on-site inspections that last days and scrutinize the details of a hospital's day-to-day operations.
The accountability that Joint Commission certification ensures cannot be underestimated. In the days of announced inspections, hospitals would prepare for months in advance in order to put their best face forward. The standards set by the Joint Commission were sure to be met, at least for that period of preparation for the inspection. Afterwards, evidence of the old, day-to-day routines would usually fall back in to place. (I can call to mind so many specific examples.)
The Joint Commission knows the deal. These days their inspections are on a "surprise" basis. The Commision records and investigates specific complaints against organizations they've accredited, and in keeping with their stated vision that, "all people always experience the safest, highest quality, best-value health care across all settings," they have introduced a number of initiatives to inform and educate patients.
The Joint Commission's Speak Up™ Initiative
In March 2002, The Joint Commission, together with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, launched a national campaign to urge patients to take a role in preventing health care errors by becoming active, involved and informed participants on the health care team. The program features brochures, posters and buttons on a variety of patient safety topics. Speak Up: Help Prevent Errors in Your Care™ encourages the public to advocate for themselves in seven general ways. (Download the entire brochure in English or Spanish to learn more.)
- Speak up if you have questions or concerns. If you still don’t understand, ask again. It’s your body and you have a right to know.
- Pay attention to the care you get. Always make sure you’re getting the right treatments and medicines by the right health care professionals. Don’t assume anything.
- Educate yourself about your illness. Learn about the medical tests you get, and your treatment plan.
- Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate (advisor or supporter).
- Know what medicines you take and why you take them. Medicine errors are the most common health care mistakes.
- Use a hospital, clinic, surgery center, or other type of health care organization that has been carefully checked out. For example, The Joint Commission visits hospitals to see if they are meeting The Joint Commission’s quality standards.
- Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the health care team.
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