Recent rise in healthcare facility violence may be higher than statistics show, Joint Commission warns

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Violence and crime in healthcare facilities is on the rise, but the true extent of the problem may still be unknown, according to a new Sentinel Event Alert issued Thursday by the Joint Commission.

Instances of assault, rape and murder of patients and visitors by other patients, visitors, staff or intruders have risen sharply since 2004, according to the report, which tracked reported crimes in those three categories back to 1995. Over the last 15 years, the Joint Commission has received reports of 256 such crimes, but a disproportionate amount of those crimes occurred only in the last half-decade. More than 100 reported events have taken place since 2007, according to the findings.

The Joint Commission in its alert notes that these numbers could be quite low, "due to the belief that there is significant under-reporting of violent crimes in health care institutions." The Commission offers a series of preventive measure facilities can take to ensure patient and visitor safety, including thorough employee background checks, encouraging reporting of perceived risks as well as actual events, and consistent reporting of crimes to law enforcement.