All acute care hospitals in the United States operate under a uniform set of standards promulgated by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). This private regulatory agency surveys all member institutions once every three years to see if they are meeting standards, including various protocols encompassing safety, comfort, education, and skill levels of caregivers.
The surveyors review every aspect of hospital management-for example, medicine, nursing, therapies, housekeeping, infection control, building maintenance engineering, and biomedical engineering. This process, briefly, is a major component of the "health-care system." The sad fact is that with 100,000 deaths and approximately 300,000 catastrophic injuries every year, the system is an abject failure in the context of providing safety, comfort, and dignity to its patrons. In order to understand why, we need to ask the question, "What's missing?" One answer is your participation.
Consequently, you must take your rightful position as the leader of your health-care team for either yourself or someone for whom you are making all health-related decisions. As team leader, you are in command. The tools you will need to make good decisions regarding safety, comfort, and dignity are contained in this book. We have started with the information required to tell whether a hospital is reasonably safe or downright dangerous.