HealthSeptember 23, 2022

Understanding national patient safety goals for hospitals

To ensure health care facilities focus on patient safety, The Joint Commission regularly reviews the National Patient Safety Goals® (NPSGs) program based on their impact, cost, and effectiveness. Learn what is needed to achieve and maintain the 2022 NPSGs for the Hospital program standards.

Improving patient safety is always a top priority for hospitals and their employees. In 2002, The Joint Commission established its NPSGs program to recommend ways to improve patient safety, help accredited organizations address specific areas of patient safety concern, and focus on solutions to healthcare safety problems. The first set of NPSG guidelines were officially introduced on January 1, 2003. In addition to developing and releasing NPSGs, the Joint Commission accredits healthcare facilities that comply with its standards. After an on-site evaluation, the Commission may certify a facility with its Golden Seal of Approval after an on-site review and compliance with its suggested improvements.

Development of the patient safety goals

The Commission takes advisement from a panel of patient safety experts called the Patient Safety Advisory Group (PSAG) – a body of medical professionals that includes nurses, physicians, and other professionals who have hands-on experience with patient safety issues in various healthcare settings. The PSAG panel works with Joint Commission staff to identify emerging patient safety issues and how to address those issues in NPSG updates, Sentinel Event Alerts, standards and survey processes, performance measures, educational materials, and Center for Transforming Healthcare projects.

With input from additional practitioners, provider organizations, purchasers, consumer groups, and other stakeholders, The Joint Commission determines the highest priority patient safety issues and how best to address them.

Seven key goals of the NPSG

After reviewing the most pressing patient safety problems in healthcare in 2022, the PSAG have updated and recommended practices to improve healthcare performance in six problem areas that often lead to patient injury.

1. Improve the accuracy of patient identification

Use at least two patient identifiers when providing care, treatment, and services. For example, use the patient’s name and date of birth to ensure each patient gets the correct medicine and treatment.

2. Improve the effectiveness of communication among caregivers

Report critical results of tests and diagnostic procedures to the right staff person on a timely basis.

3. Improve the safety of using medications

Label all medications, containers, and other solutions on and off the sterile field in perioperative and other procedural settings. Record the correct information about each patient’s medicines. Find out what medications the patient is taking and compare them to new medications given to the patient. Take extra care with patients who take blood thinners. Give the patient written information about the medicines they need to take and make sure the patient knows which medicines to take at home. Instruct the patient to bring their up-to-date list of medications every time they visit a doctor.

4. Reduce the patient harm associated with clinical alarm systems

Clinical alarm systems are intended to alert caregivers to potential patient problems, but if not properly managed, they can compromise patient safety. Make improvements to ensure that alarms on medical equipment are heard and responded to on time.

5. Reduce the risk of healthcare-associated infections

Comply with the current hand cleaning guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO), and set goals for improving hand cleaning.

6. Identify safety risks inherent in the patient population

Reduce the risk of suicide by conducting an environmental risk assessment that identifies features in the physical environment that could be used to attempt suicide. Mitigate the risk of suicide for patients at high risk for suicide, such as one-to-one monitoring, removing objects that pose a risk for self-harm, assessing objects brought into a room by visitors, and using safe transportation procedures when moving patients to other parts of the hospital.

7. Conduct a preprocedure verification process, part of the Universal Protocol

The Universal Protocol for Preventing Wrong Site, Wrong Procedure, and Wrong Person Surgery™ applies to all surgical and nonsurgical invasive procedures and ensures that the correct surgery is done on the correct patient and at the correct place on the patient’s body. Mark the correct place on the patient’s body where the surgery is to be done. Pause before the surgery to make sure that a mistake is not being made.

A focus on improving patient safety

While many patient safety goals remain consistent over time, the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing staffing shortages have highlighted vulnerabilities within the healthcare system and the points of care at which errors are most likely to occur. A gap in care consistency can unfavorably impact a hospital’s quality metrics and patient outcomes.

Quality improvement initiatives are key for hospitals and health systems to mitigate patient risk and reduce avoidable harm incidents whenever and wherever possible. Organizations should consider the tools used to standardize processes and how they can empower time-strapped physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and staff so that patients can safely and equitably receive the best care everywhere.

Learn more about courses Lippincott Solutions developed in partnership with Joint Resource Commission to promote patient safety and compliance.

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