JCAHO Taps Expert Panel to Strengthen Infection Control Standards

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- An expert group of physicians, nurses, risk managers and other health care professionals has been tapped by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) to consider and recommend ways in which current JCAHO infection control standards can be strengthened to help prevent the occurrence and devastating impacts of nosocomial infections. The Joint Commission accredits nearly 17,000 healthcare organizations, and nosocomial infections are a risk in all of the care settings encompassed in this group.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 2 million patients annually acquire an infection while hospitalized in U.S. hospitals for other health problems and that 88,000 die as a direct or indirect result of these infections. In addition to the human toll, the CDC reports that efforts to treat these infections add nearly $5 billion to healthcare costs every year.

"Infection control is a critical component of safe, quality healthcare," says Dennis S. O'Leary, M.D., president, JCAHO. "Prevention of nosocomial infections must be a high priority not only for the Joint Commission, but also for the leaders of, and healthcare professionals who work in, America's healthcare organizations."

The 20-member expert panel, which will meet for the first time in February, will be asked both to recommend enhancements to the standards and to suggest ways in which the Joint Commission can better ensure that accredited organizations are truly in compliance with the standards. More than for any other area of its standards, the progressively changing state-of-the-art in infection control has required that the Joint Commission periodically convene expert panels to recommend areas in which the standards can be strengthened. This is the third infection control expert panel to be convened in the past decade.

Current Joint Commission standards establish a framework that leverages hospitals and other healthcare organizations to identify and reduce risks of acquiring and transmitting infections among patients, staff, practitioners, and visitors. The standards cover both direct patient care activities and those used to support patient care. Finally, the Joint Commission requires accredited healthcare organizations to work with local, state and federal agencies to prevent, monitor and control infections.

In addition to evaluating compliance with infection control standards during its regular triennial surveys, the Joint Commission has included infection control as a special focus area during random unannounced surveys for hospitals in 2003. JCAHO has also transmitted the CDC's recently updated handwashing guidelines to all accredited organizations to draw specific attention to this significant advance in preventing hospital-acquired infections and other attention to infection control issues. Finally, the Joint Commission has sent a special advisory to all accredited organizations to clarify that nosocomial infections resulting in death or serious injury should be voluntarily reported to its Sentinel Event database.

Based on the expert panel's input, new JCAHO infection standards are expected to be introduced in 2004. Members of the infection control expert panel include:

Mary Alexander, CRNI

Infusion Nurses Society

Judene Bartley, MS, MPH, CIC

American Hospital Association

Marianne Billeter, PharmD

American Society for Health-System Pharmacists

John Boyce, MD, FACP

HICPAC/SHEA/APIC/IDSA Hand Hygiene Task Force

John D. Christie, MD, PhD, FCAP

College of American Pathologists

Georgia Dash, RN, MS, CIC

Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology

Loreen A. Herwaldt, MD

American Society of Microbiology

Elaine Larson, RN, PhD, FAAN, CIC

American Nurses Association

Dr. John Molinari, PhD

American Dental Association

Gary Overturf, MD

Pediatric Infectious Disease Society

Gina Pugliese, RN, MS

American Society for Healthcare Risk


Jeffery Roche, MD, MPH

American Public Health Association

Matthew Samore, MD

American College of Physicians

William E. Scheckler, MD

University of Wisconsin School of Medicine

Steve Solomon, MD

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Bryan Simmons, MD

Methodist Health System

Keith St. John

Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology

Michael Tapper, MD

Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America

Jeremiah G. Tilles, MD

American Medical Association

Robert Weinstein, MD

Infectious Disease Society of America

Dale Woodin, CHFM

American Society of Healthcare Engineers

Source: JCAHO