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New Patient Safety Standards

Accreditation Committee Requires Disclosure of Medical Errors

Oakbrook Terrace, IL -- July 13, 2001 -- New patient safety standards require hospitals to inform patients when they have been harmed during medical treatment and to make efforts to prevent medical errors. The program, which went into effect on July 1, was initiated by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), a nationwide nonprofit health care accrediting agency.

Under the JCAHO rules, patients must be told about medical errors or a hospital risks the loss of its accreditation. The agency also requires the prospective analysis and redesign of patient care systems such as the ordering, preparation, and dispensing of medications. "We need to create a culture of safety in hospitals and other health care organizations, in which errors are openly discussed and studied so that solutions can be found and put in place," says Dennis O'Leary, MD, JCAHO's president.

As many as 98,000 hospital patients die each year from medical errors, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine, a private, non-governmental organization associated with the National Academy of Science. The Institute has urged Congress to create a fund to subsidize promising health projects and to communicate the need for change throughout the health care system. It also strongly recommends that medical information be made readily available to prospective patients, including a hospital's track record on safety, medical errors, and patient satisfaction.

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