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JCHAHO Approves Strengthened Infection Control Standards
By Elena Sabido QARN, MHS 


On November 14, 2003, The Joint Commission on Accreditation of healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) approved the revised standards to help prevent the occurrence of deadly health-care related infections.

Healthcare associated infections commonly known as "nosocomial infections" constitute a significant safety risk for individuals receiving in a variety of settings. The Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) estimates that two million individuals acquire an infection each year while being treated in hospitals for other illnesses or injuries, and that 90,000 people die as a result.

The revised standards are a result of the work of an expert group of infection-control practitioners, hospital epidemiologists, physicians, nurses, risk managers and other health professionals, along with the input from accredited organizations. Since the work of these groups began, two new issues - emerging antimicrobial resistance and the management of epidemics and

emerging pathogens - have been identified.
The revised standards are designed to raise awareness that health care associated infections are a national concern that can be acquired within any care, treatment or service setting, and transferred between settings, or brought in from the community. Therefore, prevention represents one of the major safety initiatives that health care organizations can undertake. The revised plans focus on the development and implementation of plans to prevent and control infections.

The organization is expected to incorporate an infection control program as a major component of safety and performance improvement programs. Organizations are expected to perform an on-going assessment to identify its risks for the acquisition and transmission of infectious agents. It is an expectation that organization effectively uses an epidemiological approach which include conducting surveillance, collecting data, and interpreting data. In addition, organization should effectively implement infection prevention and control processes. It is also

imperative that that the program educate and collaborate with Leadership across the organization to effectively participate in the design and implementation of the infection control program.

In addition to evaluating the compliance with infection standards, JCAHO has included infection control as special focus area during random, unannounced surveys for hospitals in 2003. The JCAHO also made the CDC's recently updated handwashing guidelines a 2004 National Patient Safety Goal for all accredited organizations. Furthermore, JCAHO has advised accredited organizations that healthcare related infections resulting in death or serious injury should voluntarily report to the Sentinel Event Data Base. The 2004 National Patient Safety Goals require organizations to manage as sentinel events all health care -associated infections that result in death or major permanent loss of function.

Report extracted from JCAHO Meeting in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois on November 14, 2003.

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