Accreditation

Joint Commission: Sentinel events declined again in 2017

Briefings on Accreditation and Quality, June 1, 2018

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The Joint Commission recently released its final sentinel event statistics for 2017. The same medical miscues as last year top the list; however, it seems encouraging that the total number of reported sentinel events declined for a second consecutive year while the proportion of self-reported incidents continued to climb.

The Joint Commission reviewed 805 reports of sentinel events, which it defines as unexpected events that result in death or serious physical or psychological harm to patients. That total for 2017 was down slightly from two years ago, when it decreased from 934 in 2015 to 824 in 2016. But it was still more than in 2014, when the 763 sentinel events established the lowest mark of the past decade.

Steven A. MacArthur, a senior consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Massachusetts, says there are a couple of ways to look at the decline in sentinel events over the past two years.

“It’s really tough to say if there is a cause-and-effect consideration at work for this,” says MacArthur. “It could be that, on advice from legal counsel, folks are choosing not to report sentinel events beyond what is required. Or it could be that folks are working diligently to decrease the rate of incidence of these types of events. 

Top five 

The five most frequently reported sentinel events in 2017, according to The Joint Commission:

  1. Unintended retention of a foreign body (116)
  2. Fall (114) 
  3. Wrong patient, site, or procedure (95) 
  4. Suicide (89) 
  5. Delay in treatment (66)

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