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Statement by Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., Director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, on JCAHO Surgical Protocol

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Press Release Date: December 2, 2003

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality salutes the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) for the development and implementation of protocols to reduce surgical complications and improve patient safety. JCAHO's new universal protocol and guidelines for preventing wrong site, wrong procedure, wrong person surgery represents a major safety advance. Further, it also represents an opportunity to take steps right now to address a persistent but preventable surgical problem.

AHRQ and all agencies and programs within the Department of Health and Human Services share the common goal of ensuring that patients aren't harmed in the course of receiving care. Among the keys to achieving that goal is designing systems that standardize procedures where possible and institute a consistent approach to similar tasks. However, to facilitate their implementation, those procedures must also be adaptable for special situations and settings. JCAHO's protocols have the unique value of providing clear and unambiguous standards, while allowing for maximum flexibility in their adoption and use.

Our nation's health system is the finest in the world, providing millions of Americans with life-saving care each and every day. AHRQ is committed to working in partnership with public-and private-sector groups and stakeholders to improve on the quality and safety of that care. Wrong site, wrong procedure, wrong person surgeries can and must be prevented. AHRQ supports JCAHO's new protocols as one means of achieving that important goal.

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: (301) 427-1364.


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