Call us today at 281-580-8800 or email us at

Identifying the correct patient and surgical site, and prompt communications top The Joint Commission's annual list Contact Now

2020 National Patient Safety Goals highlight ongoing problems in hospital care

Identifying the correct patient and surgical site, and prompt communications top The Joint Commission's annual list

Each year, The Joint Commission releases National Patient Safety Goals to raise the bar and bring attention to areas where hospitals can improve the care that they provide to their patients.

As a former hospital administrator, I can tell you that these annual goals get the attention of hospital leaders. After all, The Joint Commission is the oldest and best-known accrediting organization for health care organizations. Gaining and maintaining accreditation is necessary for hospitals to participate in Medicare and to be in-network for many private insurance plans.

The 2020 National Patient Safety Goals largely get back to basics. Let’s discuss a few of them, which will illustrate how.

Goal:  Identify patient correctly

This goal requires hospitals to use at least two ways to identify patients, with the idea that it’s important to make sure that the correct treatment is being given to the correct patients. Many hospitals use the patient name and birthdate or Social Security number.

The goal also mandates that hospitals make sure that the correct patient gets the correct blood when there’s a blood transfusion.

These are both very basic principles, but hospitals in Houston and all over America continue to struggle with them. For instance, in 2019, Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center was in the news when numerous mistakes led to a fatal blood transfusion.

Goal: Improve staff communication

This goal focuses on ensuring that important test results get to the right staff person on time.

In my experience, I’ve seen this happen repeatedly on things like critical lab values and important findings on diagnostic radiology studies like CT or MRI scans.

Even beyond test results, the standard of care requires hospital nursing staff to do a head-to-toe evaluation of each patient to establish a baseline, and then to report clinically-significant changes that are observed on reassessments. This includes things like a fever, pain that’s unrelieved by medications, and a change in behavior.

When nurses fail to tell a doctor about a patient’s clinical changes and also don’t inform them of test results, the outcome can be devastating.

The Joint Commission’s goal on this point is to make sure that key patient information is communicated on time. This is certainly something worthy of attention in hospitals for staff training and accountability.

Goal: Prevent mistakes in surgery

Hospitals must make sure that the correct surgery is being done on the correct patient and at the correct place on the patient’s body.

This has been a National Patient Safety Goal for a long time, because, believe it or not, it still happens. In the last few years, I’ve represented Houston-area medical malpractice clients in two different cases where the surgeon and operating room staff didn’t notice that they were operating on the wrong patient.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor hospital care, then contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.

// Read full biography
// Read more expertise by Robert Painter

Discover More