How The Joint Commission is addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic

Heather Hurley is executive director of laboratory accreditation & health systems strategic accounts at The Joint Commission. Her role within includes oversight of the laboratory accreditation program, new product development and external relationships within the laboratory community, such as their patient blood management certification program. Heather shared an overview of how The Joint Commission is addressing COVID-19, and assisting its laboratory partners’ needs, with the Healthcare Performance Insider (HPI).

Heather discussed the unique, unprecedented times we are living through and the subsequent impact to all of The Joint Commission’s programs.  The organization has made a shift, in order to better serve the hospitals and health systems. Now more than ever, laboratories need to prove they meet a higher standard of care. The Joint Commission is a mission-driven organization and our mission is providing the safest and highest quality healthcare across all settings, for all patients. Ironically, nothing is more important in today’s world. Literally.

Heather expanded on The Joint Commission’s action steps. We’ve paused all of our surveys throughout the months of April and May, shifting gears to provide guidance and resources to help point organizations in the right direction, or provide resources that help our partners get through the challenges of their healthcare organization during COVID-19. We also have a dedicated webpage with many different resources such as FAQs, webinars, and related communications. https://www.jointcommission.org/en/covid-19/

Within Heather’s role she also manages the Patient Blood Management Certification program with AABB, in which blood utilization is a focal point.  Many of the concerns related to patient blood management have been impacted by COVID-19, raising questions: Is there enough blood? Will there be enough blood drives? Are hospitals and health systems practicing within their transfusion guidelines during this pandemic? Will there be an oversupply of blood while elective surgeries are put on hold?

Heather noted that some organizations have reviewed their transfusion guidelines as a result of these questions, reviewing every transfusion request as well as working with their surgeons as elective procedures open back up. There is an assumption that the need of blood supply may ramp up now as well and providers are looking for direction on how to prepare for an increase in the need for blood in the foreseeable future.

Blood management is often one of those overlooked priorities, right next to the hospital laboratory, in the healthcare systems. However, once you are able to educate leadership and validate the importance of the work physicians are doing, you are able to make an impact on the amount of unnecessary transfusions – the first step in making sure you have the right blood, for the right patient, at the right time.

Many organizations have attested to how their patient blood management programs have really helped during the pandemic and how they have been sought out (by other health hospitals or health systems) to help rapidly adjust amidst blood supply concerns.

Through the pandemic to-date, The Joint Commission has helped hospitals and health systems shift focus and ensure they are providing the highest quality of care to patients through the laboratory and patient blood management certified organizations.

While businesses  around the country are starting to open back up, The Joint Commission is now keeping a keen eye on  changing conditions, along with guidance from the CDC, the FDA and CMS, to adjust and address the needs of its accredited organizations and ensure it is actively providing effective plans for crisis, response or recovery in an ever-changing healthcare environment. The Joint Commission makes us better and we appreciate its dedication to making healthcare better.

Heather Hurley

Heather Hurley

Executive Director, Laboratory Accreditation & Health Systems Strategic Accounts, The Joint Commission