Have you ever wished that hospitals had more of an incentive to provide culturally and linguistically competent patient care? Or that standards for providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS) were not just optional guidelines but real requirements that health care facilities have to pay attention to—like the Joint Commission’s standards for hospital accreditation? Well, the Joint Commission has heard you and is now working to develop the first-ever accreditation standards for the provision of culturally competent patient-centered care.

Launched in August 2008, the 18-month standards development project will build upon the research framework of the Joint Commission’s ongoing Hospitals, Language and Culture: A Snapshot of the Nation study, which has been examining how a sample of 60 hospitals across the country are providing health care to culturally and linguistically diverse patient populations. The study’s findings, published in reports such as the recent One Size Does Not Fit All: Meeting the Health Care Needs of Diverse Populations, have shown that while many health care facilities are trying to meet their patients’ cultural and language needs, the practices being used vary widely from hospital to hospital.

“Hospitals face many challenges in caring for a rapidly changing patient population,” says Paul M. Schyve, MD, Joint Commission senior vice president and co-director of the project. “Sensitivity and responsiveness to cultural and language needs impact the quality of care, patient safety, and patient and family satisfaction. [This] initiative will provide a firm foundation for standards that foster culturally competent patient-centered care.”

Funded by a grant from the Commonwealth Fund, the project will examine how diversity, culture, language and health literacy issues can be better incorporated into current accreditation standards or drafted into new requirements. The Joint Commission will then collaborate with the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) to develop an implementation guide to help hospitals prepare for the release of the cultural competence standards, which are targeted to take effect in 2011.
To guide this important work, the Joint Commission has assembled a 26-member Expert Advisory Panel that will review available evidence-based best practices and identify principles that can be the basis for new and revised standards. The multidisciplinary panel includes nationally recognized minority nursing leaders such as Debra A. Toney, PhD, RN (president, National Black Nurses Association) and Faye Gary, EdD, RN, FAAN, Medical Mutual of Ohio Professor for Vulnerable and At-Risk Persons at Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

For more information about the Joint Commission’s initiative to develop culturally competent patient-centered care standards, visit www.jointcommission.org (click on “Patient Safety,” then “Hospitals, Language and Culture”).

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