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JCAHO Modifies Random Unannounced Surveys

Katherine M. Bennett

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) recently announced changes to the way it conducts random, unannounced surveys. Under the new procedures, the commission, which randomly examines 5 percent of all accredited organizations, will:


  • Give no prior notice to the survey (previously, a 24-hour notice was given), 
  • Schedule surveys anywhere between nine and 30 months after the triennial home care survey (rather than the current fixed 18th month), 
  • Provide surveyors with a packet of information on the site, including the last accreditation survey report and any complaint or sentinel even information received since the last survey, 
  • Allow the surveyors to evaluate a combination of fixed components (same for all organizations) plus variable components (based on recommendations from the organization's last full survey, complaints, sentinel events, and on-site survey findings), and 
  • Include in its assessment of fixed components high-risk areas identified from review of sentinel events and issues of public concern. Changes went into effect January 1, 2000, for all sites. For more information, check out the "Home Care" section of ASHP's Web site ( or JCAHO's Web site at



    13.6% of sentinel events reviewed by JCAHO since 1995 have been medication errors—second in number to patient suicides.

    Source: Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations