October 3, 2023

The Joint Commission reveals sentinel events remain high in 2023

Editor's Note

Data from The Joint Commission on sentinel events—events that result in patient death or serious harm—for the first half of 2023 are out and look to be on par with last year’s all-time high numbers, Becker's Clinical Leadership October 2 reports. Data from 2022 showed events rising to 1,208 after hovering between 800 and 900 from 2010 to 2020.

Here are some highlights, according to The Joint Commission 2023 report:

  • 720 sentinel events were recorded by The Joint Commission between January 1 and June 30, 2023
  • The most commonly reported sentinel event were falls (47%), followed by unintended retention of a foreign object (9%); assault, rape, and sexual assault or homicide (8%); and wrong-site surgery (8%)
  • Patient suicides were lower in the first half of 2023 than in 2022
  • Leading factors associated with suicide include failure to follow policies, poor communication of critical information, and inadequate or inappropriate precautions for high-risk or impaired patients
  • As in the 2022 report, 88% of the above sentinel events occurred in a hospital setting
  • Last year, 20% of sentinel events resulted in patient death; in 2023, 18% have resulted in patient death. 

The report attributes these sentinel events, of which only a fraction are reported, to a breakdown in communication, lack of teamwork, and failure to follow policies.


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