Joint Commission issues suicide prevention guidelines

Isolated senior citizen looking out window
A Joint Commission panel has created guidelines for providers to prevent suicides. (Getty/LSOphoto)

A panel convened by the Joint Commission has issued a set of guidelines to help providers prevent suicides in healthcare settings.

The guidelines—which were assembled by a panel that includes providers, Joint Commission representatives, experts in behavioral health and representatives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services—apply to emergency departments, general inpatient units and psychiatric hospitals. 

"There needs to be consensus on these issues so that health care organizations will know what changes they need to make to keep patients safe and so surveyors can reliably assess organizations’ compliance with standards," the commission said. 

Free Webinar

Take Control of Your Escalating Claim Costs through a Comprehensive Pre-payment Hospital Bill Review Solution

Today managing high dollar claim spend is more important than ever for Health Plans, TPAs, Employers, and Reinsurers, and can pose significant financial risks. How can these costs be managed without being a constant financial drain on your company resources? Our combination of the right people and the right technology provides an approach that ensures claims are paid right, the first time. Register Now!

The Joint Commission noted that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and that while relatively few suicides occur in healthcare facilities, experts suggest that more may occur shortly after discharge, though there is limited data available to study this.

RELATED: Doctor suicide—Wife lifts the veil of secrecy on depression, message goes viral 

Inpatient units and emergency departments likely cannot meet the same rigorous ligature-resistance standards that the commission recommends for psychiatric facilities, as patients typically need monitoring equipment and machinery that could be a risk. However, the Joint Commission recommends that inpatient units and ERs conduct a risk assessment for items that could be used in suicide attempts, and avoid making them available to patients with suicide ideation.

The commission offered strategies to keep suicidal patients safe in the emergency room:

  • Place the patient in a safe room or keep them in the main ER with constant one-on-one monitoring.
  • Train staff to deal to recognize and respond to patients who may be suicidal.
  • Routinely screen patients for signs of suicide risk. 
  • Out in place a clear policy for handling patients who are demonstrable suicide risk.
  • Closely monitor patients and visitors who may be at risk for suicide.

RELATED: Med school seeks culture change to support trainees after student suicide 

The Joint Commission's panel will continue to meet and discuss suicide prevention strategies, according to the announcement. It met most recently on Oct. 11 to discuss prevention solutions in other healthcare settings, including residential treatment, outpatient care and partial hospitalization. 

The commission expects to release additional guidelines for those settings. 

Suggested Articles

Learn how health plans can demonstrate agility with analytics to shape benefit plans in a time of healthcare transformation.

As hospitals face a new wave of ransomware attacks, a HIMSS survey finds most organizations still are under-investing in cybersecurity.

FBI warns U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers of imminent cybercrime threats; 5 important safeguards to take now