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Assessing Risk and Preventing Harm


By Mary Beth Curran, Executive Editor, Global Publications, Joint Commission Resources

Health care organizations are in the business of making people well and keeping them safe. Yet, according to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, as many as four in 10 patients are harmed while receiving primary or outpatient health care.  

According to the same study, up to 80% of harm is preventable.

How can harm be prevented? One primary option is to mitigate risk – risk to patients and staff, to facilities, and to care and services. Indeed, risk is present in every process in every department in every health care organization, and it goes beyond clinical aspects of care, treatment and services. There are risks related to:

  • physical environment
  • emergency situations such as floods and fires
  • spread of infections 

Risk Assessments
By regularly assessing risk – which The Joint Commission requires you to do – your organization takes a giant and critical step toward preventing harm. And that’s where The Joint Commission Guide to Risk Assessment comes in. This new book from Joint Commission Resources (JCR) highlights risk assessments that are required by The Joint Commission to help organizations identify critical risks and take steps to mitigate them. The book is divided into five chapters, each with a specific focus:

  • Chapter 1: Risk Assessment Basics – explores the who, what, when, why and where of risk assessments
  • Chapter 2: Environment of Care Risk Assessments – guides readers through safety and security risk assessments, preconstruction risk assessments, and environmental risk assessments for suicide risk
  • Chapter 3: Emergency Management Risk Assessments – helps with identifying likely emergencies and risks related to managing staff, utilities, communications and general preparedness 
  • Chapter 4: Infection Prevention and Control Risk Assessments – supports the assessment of risks related to acquiring and transmitting infections
  • Chapter 5: The Role of Leadership in Risk Assessment – addresses a leader’s role in implementing an organization-wide performance improvement program based on proactive risk assessment and high-risk processes 

Each chapter includes a downloadable sample risk assessment that addresses the corresponding Joint Commission requirement, plus tools to help you conduct risk assessments, a table of applicable standards by accreditation program, definitions of key terms, and more.

Although assessing risk will never be “done,” every time potential risks are identified and mitigated, it helps to prevent harm to another person and keeps patients well and safe. 

Click here for more information about or to order The Joint Commission Guide to Risk Assessment.

Mary Beth Curran is Executive Editor, Joint Commission Resources.