Sunday, October 21, 2007

Joint Commission Hearing

I probably just returned from one of the most important things I will do as a patient safety advocate. I was a panelist at a hearing for the Joint Commission.

Joint Commission accredited facilities, found to have standards not met by the surveyor at the time of the survey, can have a hearing to explain (or defend) the surveyors findings. As a member of the Joint Commission Board and Accreditation Committee, I am obligated to be a panelist once or more a year.

I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to hear how a facility would try to defend themselves against what could be dangerous circumstances that could potentially harm, or even kill an innocent patient. But I am obligated to. And as a patient safety advocate, I am obligated to understand, for the people I sometimes represent how, in fact bad things can happen.

I also understood that I was not there to make judgment. There were three of us. The two others were actually professional staff members at a similar facility to those who were going to plead their case. I didn’t have to know the details of how a facility is run – they did and they were very good at it.

It was surprising to me how I was able to remove myself from the patient / family role just for the short time to listen, learn and absorb information about the things that can happen in healthcare that most of us, who don’t work in healthcare don’t really understand. I needed to remember that the Joint Commissions role is not to “punish” but in part to report. If you were supposed to lock that cabinet and it wasn’t locked – you did not follow policy – period.

But there also are some gray areas that can be defended with proper guidance of those who know the system and understand the loopholes.

I began to find myself drifting into a land of make believe. What if I was capable of “closing down that facility” as so many patients and families feel is necessary after the death of a family member. What if I could snap my fingers and have the healthcare facility lose accreditation? I began to realize that the people who would suffer are the people like myself who also count on this place to help them get well and offer a community service. Then, I thought to myself, I really do want to help healthcare organizations help their patients. Why, oh why can’t they just follow the rules?

No comments: