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Joint Commission's Greatest Hits at HIMSS

Cruising the press room at a trade show usually provides a snapshot of the newest, greatest stuff, refreshed daily as vendors hype attendees on product announcements. They save them up for big unveilings at industry confabs like HIMSS10 here in Atlanta. Nothing changes, year to year, except reporters now come home with a fistful of thumb drives loaded with media kits, instead of luggage stuffed fat with paper like they did just a few years back.

Leave it to hospital accreditor The Joint Commission to drop color copies of a 14-month-old report to represent itself among this shiny-glossy lineup. It’s a Sentinel Event Alert, a bulletin issued to its accredited hospitals as a heads up about safety issues The Joint Commission issues when it collects enough adverse-event reports on a particular topic to recommend member hospitals review policies and procedures for the sake of patient and employee accident prevention.

While the report, “Safety implementing health information and converging technologies,” isn’t exactly “Dock of the Bay” or even “Love Shack,” it’s an oldie but goodie. It warns hospitals about going slow when introducing new tech into the environment of care, advising to take time to test and understand a given piece of equipment’s potential for negatively affecting other equipment in use and potentially causing patient harm. Such as the hypothetical RFID chip reprogramming a ventilator and shutting it down. The content’s eerily timely, sitting there among vendor press kits pushing the latest and greatest wireless gear bound to crowd the hospital’s spectrum even more than it presently is with computers, phones, patient-care devices, pagers and everything else.

If nothing, it seems even more timely than when issued in December 2008, underscoring the responsibility each hospital has in minding its own wireless backyard and following due diligence on testing before implementation — no matter what bill of goods their vendor sold them at HIMSS or any other trade show they attend.

Hospital CIOs evaluating wireless technology might want to heed the report’s gist, and keep safety managers a part of their evaluation and purchasing process. It offers a detailed, 13-step action list for implementing the converging technologies from the network to the bedside. Highlights include examining how new gear will affect workflow, involving clinicians and staff in evaluating it, analyzing new tech’s supporting network infrastructure, and establishing training programs. Read the full report at

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