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JCAHO to Rate Sentinel Event Alert Response

Kate Traynor

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) announced in May that it will rate how well organizations review the patient safety issues raised in its e-mail newsletter Sentinel Event Alert.

JCAHO defines a sentinel event as "any unexpected occurrence involving death or serious physical or psychological injury, or the risk thereof." Since 1998, JCAHO has relied on Sentinel Event Alert to help health care organizations avoid preventable incidents ranging from medication errors and wrong-site surgery to infant abduction.

Under the new policy, JCAHO will determine whether a health care organization has adequately assessed the likelihood that incidents described in Sentinel Event Alert will occur. When appropriate, surveyed organizations are expected to put in place procedures to prevent such incidents. The issue is discussed in standard PI.4.2, which addresses the improvement of an organization’s performance.

Organizations seeking accreditation or reaccreditation are expected to have evaluated their risk of all incidents discussed in current and previous issues of Sentinel Event Alert. JCAHO expects health care organizations to address suggestions made in future issues of Sentinel Event Alert within 45 days of the publication’s release.

Back issues of Sentinel Event Alert are available at the JCAHO Web site.