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The Joint Commission issues new Quick Safety advisory on palliative care for seriously ill patients visiting the emergency department

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Media Contact:  
Maureen Lyons
Corporate Communications  
(630) 792-5171

(OAKBROOK TERRACE, Illinois, July 13, 2022) – Patients who are seriously ill often turn to, or are inappropriately admitted to, already overburdened emergency departments (EDs) for care that may better be addressed by palliative care services. A new Quick Safety advisory from The Joint Commission, “Palliative care: Better care for seriously ill patients visiting the ED,” provides guidance to help hospitals provide the most appropriate care to palliative care patients.    

Palliative care can be provided “at any stage of a serious illness and is beneficial when provided along with treatments of curative or life-prolonging intent,” according to the National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care (NCP). Palliative care attends to the physical, functional, psychological, practical and spiritual aspects of a serious illness. It provides symptom management, offers caregiver support and coordinates the provision of care across settings.  

“When seriously ill patients are unnecessarily admitted to the emergency department or hospitalized, they are potentially exposed to adverse events such as healthcare-associated infections as well as physical or psychological trauma resulting from the admission,” says Debbie Holzer, RN, MSN, CRRN, project director, Department of Standards and Survey Methods, The Joint Commission. “If a seriously ill patient desires to receive palliative care services it is important that services are provided in the most appropriate setting to meet the patient’s needs and to avoid preventable ED or hospital admissions. Palliative care is shown to improve quality of life for both patients and their families and therefore should be offered as an option to seriously ill patients.”

The Quick Safety advisory provides recommended safety actions for hospitals to help address the needs of seriously ill patients, including:

  • Examine trends in ED usage as well as hospital admissions to determine if appropriate palliative care services could benefit patients instead.
  • Collaborate with local healthcare organizations that offer palliative care programs or provide palliative care services or expertise. 
  • Provide palliative care education to all healthcare staff who care for seriously ill patients.
  • Support efforts within EDs to incorporate palliative care principles into their practices. 

The advisory also includes resources from the NCP, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, and Center to Advance Palliative Care. 

The full Quick Safety advisory is available on The Joint Commission website. It may be reproduced if credited to The Joint Commission.


About The Joint Commission  
Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve healthcare for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating healthcare organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 22,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, nonprofit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in healthcare. Learn more about The Joint Commission at