JCAHO white paper urges reforms to nation's medical liability system

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The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations issued a public policy white paper advocating that the current proposal for caps on non-economic damages should be expanded to pursue intermediate and long-term system changes that would facilitate improvements in patient safety.

This report promotes intensified attention to patient safety and medical injury prevention by health care providers and practitioners; emphasizes the critical importance of open communication between patients and practitioners; and urges the creation of an injury compensation system that is patient-centered and serves the common good.

The white paper proposes that any redesign of the medical liability system, should assure appropriate compensation for all injured patients, while also encouraging health care providers and practitioners to acknowledge errors, learn from mistakes in the design and performance of care processes, and take action to ensure that adverse events do not recur.
 
"The ultimate goal is to make health care as safe as it can be, while also assuring appropriate redress for patients when this is warranted," says Dennis S. O'Leary, M.D., president, Joint Commission.  "The medical liability system in place today simply falls short of this goal."

The Joint Commission's white paper was developed in collaboration with an Expert Roundtable whose 29 members represent a wide diversity of interests relevant to medical liability. The report contains 19 specific recommendations and identifies accountabilities for each of those. As with its other public policy initiatives, the Joint Commission intends to work in collaboration with other parties of interest to see that each of those recommendations is eventually met.

The Expert Roundtable identified three strategies as imperative for achieving its overall goal:

  • Actively pursue patient safety initiatives that prevent medical injury.

  • Promote open communication between patients and practitioners.
  • Create a patient-centered injury compensation system.

A complete copy of the Joint Commission white paper "Health Care at the Crossroads: Strategies for Improving the Medical Liability System and Preventing Patient Injury is available on the JCAHO website at http://www.jcaho.org