Joint Commission: Be on alert for retained foreign objects

In an effort to protect both patients and hospitals against the negative physical, emotional and financial consequences of unintended retention of foreign objects (URFOs), The Joint Commission released a new sentinel event alert that advises hospitals on how to decrease the number of these incidents. The accrediting agency has received reports of 772 incidents in its sentinel event database from 2005 to 2012.The alert showed hospitals can reduce the risk of URFOs by identifying and attempting to eliminate risk factors ranging from the absence of related policies and procedures to breakdowns in communications between physicians and staff. Implementing effective processes and procedures--such as creating a standardized counting system, improving communication, ensuring appropriate documentation and providing safe technology--can protect patients and prevent URFO-related incidents, which the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority estimated costs hospitals about $166,000 per incident. Alert (.pdf)