Joint Commission to Release Communication, Language Standards to Encourage Health Equity

Heather Comak, for HealthLeaders Media , April 20, 2010

The new standards also heavily emphasize the effect on a patient's well-being that having a family member, close friend, or other individual present during care can have. The hospital will be required to allow this type of person, regardless of relationship to the patient, to stay at a patient's side for emotional support throughout his or her care. This will align with President Obama's memorandum last week stipulating that hospitals that participate in Medicaid or Medicare afford patients the right to have visitors of their choice, regardless of their relationship (familial or not).

"Those that were on the TEP pointed out that in patient-centered care, it's become clear that patients are much more comfortable when they're in the hospital if they can have a friend of family member with them on a much more continuous basis," said Schyve.

Many of the new requirements are additions to some existing standards in the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Record of Care, Treatment, and Services, and Human Resources chapters.

The road map will help guide facilities in complying with these standards and incorporating their concepts and intent into everyday care, said Amy Wilson-Stronks, MPP, CPHQ, project director in the Division of Standards and Survey Methods at The Joint Commission and principal investigator on the Hospitals, Language, and Culture study.

"I think it's really important for folks to think about this in a broader context," said Wilson-Stronks. "In order to address disparities, there really needs to be an integrated effort at multiple levels, and it needs to be an ongoing process, integrated into both patient safety and quality improvement initiatives."

Heather Comak is a Managing Editor at HCPro, Inc., where she is the editor of the monthly publication Briefings on Patient Safety, as well as patient safety-related books and audio conferences. She is also is the Assistant Director of the Association for Healthcare Accreditation Professionals. Contact Heather by e-mailing

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