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Two leading professional organizations have issued guidelines to help minimize the use of restraints and seclusion in behavioral health services. The guidelines suggest it may not be possible, or even necessary, to eliminate the use of restraints and seclusion altogether, but that each instance must be carefully justified and monitored.
The advice was prompted in part by a recent analysis of sentinel events by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organiza tions (JCAHO). Restraints and seclusion have drawn increased attention from family members and consumers in recent years, and regulatory bodies such as the JCAHO increasingly are looking at restraint and seclusion as a sign of poor quality of care. Federal hearings on restraints and seclusion are planned for spring 1999.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) and the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems (NAPHS) issued the guide - lines recently to help hospitals prevent death and injury related to the use of restraints or seclusion.
The AHA and NAPHS both serve on the Joint Commission’s board-level task force on restraint and seclusion, which is holding public hearings this spring and will make recommendations on any needed changes to current restraint and seclusion standards. The groups also are working with the American Psychiatric Association to identify best practices.
This is the advice from the AHA and NAPHS:
To improve and reduce the use of restraints and seclusion in your facility, the AHA and NAPHS suggest you organize a team to make a systemwide assessment of your restraint and seclusion policies and procedures. The team should include key clinical staff such as the medical director, quality assurance director, program directors, director of nursing, and intake director, along with key administrative staff such as the administrator, marketing or public relations director, security director, and others.
This type of review should be part of your organization’s continuous quality improvement process, with the review conducted frequently. Frequent reviews will help ensure that policies are up-to-date and followed by all employees.
The AHA and NAPHS conclude that restraint and seclusion can be life-saving and injury-sparing emergency interventions when used properly. The two groups recommend these components of a good program:
• policies and procedures on how to employ restraint and seclusion safely (including understanding the risks and benefits of intervening and not intervening);
• a process for continuously reevaluating the need for restraint or seclusion;
• a process for continuous monitoring to ensure patients’ safety and other needs are met;
• a policy requiring that a physician (or other licensed practitioner as permitted by state law) should authorize use of restraint or seclusion in a timely manner. This licensed clinician must be involved in the decision to continue the use of restraint or seclusion;
• consideration of the safe and appropriate use of medication as an alternative to restraint and seclusion and in reducing the length of any episode;
• a system for assessing and understanding the needs of patients before they enter treatment;
• well-trained and adequate numbers of staff to handle the complexity of the patients served;
• a clinical strategy for intervening as early as possible before behavior has escalated to a point requiring seclusion or restraint;
• a system for carefully and routinely mon itoring use of restraint and seclusion so you can evaluate ways to reduce its use in the future.
In reviewing your current policies and procedures, the AHA and NAPHS suggest looking at the following factors:
• assessment activities (such as preadmission screening, history of aggressive behavior or assault, previous experience of restraint or seclusion, history of trauma, review of triggers, input of family and others);
• development of an individualized, com prehensive, multidisciplinary treatment plan that addresses issues identified during the assessment process with focused attention to the needs of special populations (such as children, adolescents, elderly, and developmentally disabled);
• role of patients, family, and others, as appropriate, in the development of the treatment plan;
• consideration of the use of medication in both the ongoing and emergency treatment of the patient;
• staff development with special emphasis on management strategies, assessment, identification of early signs of behavioral change, early intervention/crisis prevention techniques, de-escalation techniques, specific implementation of restraint or seclusion procedures (with opportunities for regular drills or practice), safe care and observation of patients in restraint or seclusion, review and analysis of restraint and seclusion episodes with attention to impact on patients, staff, and others;
• comprehensive plan for monitoring performance improvement that includes appropriate goals for reducing use of restraint and seclusion, collection and analysis of aggregate data with attention to trends, and analysis of efficacy and appropriateness;
• review of accrediting and regulatory bodies’ (JCAHO, the Health Care Financing Adminis tration, state law, local departments of health, etc.) requirements;
• review of the procedures for reporting routine information as well as for reporting critical and sentinel events;
• plan for soliciting and incorporating feedback, as appropriate, from consumers and families regarding their experience of restraint and seclusion;
• plan for managing concerns or complaints of patients, family members, and consumer groups regarding restraint and seclusion.
[Editor’s note: Free copies of the guiding principles may be obtained from NAPHS by calling (202) 393-6700, ext. 15.]