Joint Commission Tailors Speak Up Campaign to Prevent Pediatric Errors

Heather Comak, for HealthLeaders Media , August 11, 2009

In an effort to make parents more aware of the medical errors their children are in danger of while in the hospital, The Joint Commission launched an education campaign as part of its existing Speak Up program last week.

The original Speak Up program encourages all patients to become involved in their care and make their voices heard to prevent potential medical errors. This new version, called "Speak Up to Prevent Errors in Your Child's Care," is aimed at parents and encourages them to ask the right questions to prevent a potential error from occurring while their child is at a healthcare facility.

"Through the Speak Up™ program, The Joint Commission is helping parents by giving them the tools they need to ask the right questions and take action before, during and after their child's care," said Marc Chassin, MD, MPP, MPH, president of The Joint Commission, in a press release.

According to a 2008 study from the National Initiative for Children's Health Care Quality, 1 in 15 children is harmed by a medical error. The Joint Commission is encouraging parents to take action before, during, and even after their child has been cared for to help reduce this number.

The new campaign gives parents some advice about what to watch out for during their children's next doctors' appointments or trips to the hospital. This includes:

  • Knowing their children's medical history, including vaccinations and any health problems

  • Being aware of any medications their child is taking

  • Making the doctor aware that they don't understand a specific treatment or care prescribed, if parents have questions

  • Reminding caregivers to wash their hands, and being vigilant about doing so

Further specific advice is given for situations in which a child might be undergoing an operation, having lab tests done, or visiting the hospital.

The Speak Up campaign was originally introduced in March 2002 as a joint initiative between The Joint Commission and The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The program was one of the first public campaigns to encourage patients to become actively involved in their care by "speaking up" when they thought something might not be right with their treatments. It also suggested patients become more educated about their conditions to prevent potential errors from occurring.

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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