Hospital International Patient Safety Goal: Patient Identification

Posted by Serba Serbi Online

On the Medical Tourism Latin America I frequently reference Joint Commission International (JCI), the top accrediting body for international hospitals. Blue Morpho works exclusively with hospitals that have either achieved this accreditation or are actively working toward it. You might ask what’s the big deal about accreditation? As you may know, almost all U.S. hospitals are accredited by the domestic arm of The Joint Commission. This stamp of approval is necessary for hospitals that bill Medicare and most private insurance companies.

JCI surveys all areas of hospital operations, and I think one of the most important things they have done in recent years is establish International Patient Safety Goals (IPSG’s), similar to the National Patient Safety Goals in the U.S. There are two reasons why I want medical tourists to know about the IPSG’s.

1. Planning travel to a foreign hospital for medical care can be scary, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Knowing that the hospital you will visit has shown dedication to patient safety through JCI accreditation and implementation of the IPSG’s offers reassurance.
2. Research shows that patients and their companions who are actively involved in the safety of their medical care actually DO receive the safest care. Education is the first step to becoming an active participant your care. (And this is true for anyone entering a hospital in the U.S. and abroad!)

Let’s start with the first goal: Identify Patients Correctly. The JCI standards manual states, “The intent of this goal is twofold: first, to reliably identify the individual as the person for whom the service or treatment is intended; second, to match the service or treatment to that individual.”

What this boils down to is that before providing any treatment to a patient, the nurse, doctor, lab tech, etc. must verify that you are indeed the person for whom the care is intended. This happens best through the use of two identifiers. The first is your name, and the second is most commonly date of birth; your room number should never be used. Generally you will be asked for this information, and your answers compared to the written documentation on the medical record, medication, lab order, etc. This simple step prevents errors. For instance, you may be in the room previously occupied by Mr. Smith, and it ensures you don’t get Mr. Smith’s medication rather than your own!

So what is the patient and companion’s role in this? First off, it is OK to remind the caregiver to verify your identification. You may even ask to see your name on the medication or treatment order to make sure it is intended for you. Answers to your questions will reassure you and make you feel safe while reminding your hospital caregiver that you want to be a part of your care. Rather than being off put or challenged by your questions, medical caregivers will appreciate the opportunity to reassure you that they are doing the right thing the right way. After all, medical professionals don’t want to make mistakes any more than you want them to.

Education about patient safety is in no way designed to frighten, nor is it uniquely targeted to medical tourists traveling outside of the U.S. for care. In my role as a U.S. hospital Patient Safety Officer, I always advised nurses to educate patients on the steps they take to ensure patient safety. Further, I encouraged patients never to hesitate to ask questions and always speak up if they had concerns.

I’ll cover more about patient safety in future posts. Feel free to leave a comment here on the blog. I am interested in knowing what you think.

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