Most common sentinel events in first half of 2023: Joint Commission

The number of sentinel events in 2023 is on track to be near last year's record-setting 1,441 patient safety events that led to death, harm or an intervention required to sustain life, according to The Joint Commission data first shared with Becker's.  

From Jan. 1 through June 30, The Joint Commission recorded 720 sentinel events. The total number reached an all-time high in 2022 after a stable average in the 800s and 900s per year from 2010 to 2020; in 2021, it jumped to 1,208 events. 

Compared to the first half of 2022, the percentage of treatment delays and suicides decreased, while assaults and wrong-site surgeries grew in prevalence. 

The six most frequently reported sentinel events for the first half of 2023:

  • Falls — 47 percent

  • Unintended retention of foreign object — 9 percent

  • Assault, rape, sexual assault or homicide — 8 percent

  • Wrong-site surgery, such as wrong procedure, patient or implant — 8 percent

  • Suicide — 5 percent

  • Delay in treatment — 5 percent

Most sentinel events, or 88 percent, happened in a hospital in the first six months of 2023. Eighteen percent were associated with a patient's death, 63 percent with severe temporary harm and 7 percent with permanent harm.

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