The Joint Commission is a non-profit organization that focuses on promoting better, safer care across all healthcare settings. The organization is actively involved in collaborating with US healthcare providers to promote the values of safe care and involve patients in taking an active role in receiving quality care. The National Patient Safety Goals (NPSGs) are a special area of activity of the Joint Commission in which the organization seeks to “assist healthcare organizations in addressing patient safety concerns” (Murray, 2017, p. 153). In particular, healthcare professionals work with the organization to identify acute patient safety issues and develop the most effective strategies to deal with them. The first set of NPSGs came into effect in January 2003 and is updated annually to address emerging concerns (Murray, 2017, p. 153). Goals data identify existing problems in various healthcare settings, including “ambulatory health care, behavioral health care, critical access hospitals, home care, hospitals, laboratory services, long-term care, and office-based surgery” (Murray, 2017, p. 153). Hospitals are actively using these strategies to achieve real results in improving the safety and quality of care.
The NPSGs for 2022 identifies several critical targets that aim to improve patient safety. One of them is to improve communication between healthcare professionals and caregivers (The Joint Commission, 2021). In particular, the issue is the late submission of patient diagnostics and testing results inside healthcare facilities, which prevents effective treatment and puts the patient’s health at risk. In this situation, hospitals are trying not only to improve communication between professionals and units through training but also to establish unified handover protocols (Burgener, 2020). Additionally, it is important to set the exact time frame in which the results should be obtained. This helps healthcare professionals plan the initiation and continuation of treatment more effectively. Therefore, hospitals are actively developing protocols for more efficient communication between units, which enables more quality care.
Another important patient safety concern highlighted in the NPSGs is the need to reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections. The main recommendation for achieving this goal for hospitals is the implementation of hygiene guidelines. Magill et al. (2018) note that In 2015, a US hospital found a significant decrease in the number of healthcare-associated infections in 2011 (p. 1741). This result was achieved thanks to improved strategies for controlling pathogens, especially in the surgical setting and concerning urinary tract infections. Thus, to achieve this goal, hospitals are trying to engage in the training of professionals in the field of hygiene, as well as preventing the spread of pathogens. In general, improved disinfection practices, more frequent catheter replacement, and maintaining an overall high level of hygiene are of particular importance. Thus, hospitals are developing protocols to improve hygiene, especially in the surgery setting, which helps to reduce the spread of infections.
Better monitoring of patients’ mental health and prevention of suicide risk is also a priority for the NPSGs. In this situation, hospitals need to identify environmental factors that can cause an increased risk of suicide and mitigate their negative impact. Denchev et al. (2018) investigated the effectiveness of suicide prevention programs in emergency departments of US hospitals. The authors found that interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, telephone outreach, and writing cards or letters significantly reduced the risk of suicide among patients and increased their safety. In this situation, hospitals pay attention to mental difficulties that can cause harm to the patient and mimic them through interventions. Although this practice is not widespread, many hospitals offer psychological services to patients, especially through emergency departments.
Burgener, A. M. (2020). Enhancing communication to improve patient safety and to increase patient satisfaction. The Health Care Manager, 39(3), 128-132.
Denchev, P., Pearson, J. L., Allen, M. H., Claassen, C. A., Currier, G. W., Zatzick, D. F., & Schoenbaum, M. (2018). Modeling the cost-effectiveness of interventions to reduce suicide risk among hospital emergency department patients. Psychiatric Services, 69(1), 23-31.
Magill, S. S., O’Leary, E., Janelle, S. J., Thompson, D. L., Dumyati, G., Nadle, G., Wilson, L. E., Kainer, M. A., Lynfield, R., Greissman, S., Ray, S. M., Beldavs, Z., Gross, C., Bamberg, W., Sievers, M., Concannon, C., Buhr, N., Warnke, L., Maloney, M., Ocampo, V., … & Edwards, J. R. (2018). Changes in prevalence of health care-associated infections in U.S. hospitals. The New England Journal of Medicine, 379, 1632-1744.
Murray, E. J. (2017). Chapter 7: Improving and managing safe and quality care. In E. J. Murray (ed.), Nursing leadership and management for patient safety and quality care (pp. 141-172). F. A. Davis Company.
The Joint Commission. (2021). National Patient Safety Goals® effective January 2022 for the hospital program [PDF-file].