The Joint Commission conducts two types of tracer events:
1. Patient tracers
2. System tracers
- Patient tracers follow the path of selected patients through a healthcare organization. Everyone involved in caring for the patient and their loved ones, directly or indirectly can potentially be interviewed by a surveyor during the tracer activity.
This is an actual assessment of how effectively and safely the care of a patient and their loved ones is managed. The Joint Commission surveyors first review the patient’s medical chart to gather information, after which they interview staff concerning the care of the patient. Patient and family members may also be interviewed.
- System tracers differ from patient tracers. In the system tracer the Joint Commission’s surveyors explore high-risk system processes common to healthcare organizations. This includes medication management, infection control and how data is used. System tracers are scheduled interviews involving leadership, directors and managers and may result in triggering a patient tracer activity at the end of the interview. For example, during the medication management interview, the surveyor might request a follow-up patient tracer on a patient receiving pain management or chemotherapy.
What can you do?
It is important for you to know your role and the processes that apply to patient care in your healthcare organization. Be prepared to answer questions about your job responsibilities, your training, and your work with patients. Be alert to reference specific policies and procedures that apply to your function and how they relate to patient care and the interdisciplinary process in your healthcare setting. Be aware of your institution’s policies and procedures that apply to all employees system-wide.
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