Joint Commission launches program to stop patient care breakdowns

The Joint Commission is launching a new initiative, the Center for Transforming Healthcare, whose purpose is to address dangerous breakdowns in patient care.

The CTH's first project is an initiative addressing hand-washing failures, which experts both in and outside the Commission have consistently targeted as a source of healthcare-associated infections. Despite the importance of hand-washing, it's proven difficult to make sure staffers are complying.

Hand washing is "a critical patient safety problem--one that requires fixes far more complex than just putting up signs urging caregivers to wash their hands," the Commission noted in its press release. In fact, caregivers wash their hands less than 50 percent of the time, according to Center measurements.

To kick off the handwashing program, eight hospitals and health systems have agreed to participate in an initial hand-washing compliance effort. They include Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Health System and Exempla Lutheran Medical Center of Wheat Ridge, CO. The hospitals will be using Robust Process Improvement tools to improve compliance, including tailored education in hand hygiene, frequent communication and real-time feedback on the topic and using a reliable method to measure performance.

After a press conference held in Washington, DC earlier today, Dr. Mark Chassin, president of the Joint Commission, also commented on these efforts to FierceHealthcare. He said that the push for this program, which is based on Lean Six Sigma methods "long used in other industries," has nothing to do with the emergence of Det Norske Veritas (DNV) Healthcare Inc., which was granted accreditation authority for hospitals by CMS last year at this time. DNV represents one of the only competitors to the Joint Commission, currently.

"No other healthcare accreditor is using the same tools we've talked about using here," said Chassin, who has touted Lean Six Sigma since 1999 when he was the chair of the department of health policy with The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. "This is not about any sort of competition at all."

Chassin added that his criteria for picking the hospitals engaging in the program was that they "had mastered the tools necessary" to participate in such efforts. "I personally called the CEOs of each of those hospitals, and not one said no," he said.

The Commission's next efforts will focus on hand-off communications at eight more facilities, including the Mayo Clinic, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Stanford Hospital & Clinics. 

To learn more about this effort:
- read this Joint Commission press release

Associate Editor Dan Bowman contributed to this report.