Understanding the Joint Commission’s Standards Development Process


The Joint Commission, a pivotal entity in healthcare quality and safety, outlines a meticulous process for developing standards that serve as a foundation for evaluating healthcare organizations. These standards are vital in measuring, assessing, and improving performance, focusing on crucial aspects of patient, individual, or resident care, and organizational functions.

The Essence of Joint Commission Standards

Joint Commission standards set the bar for performance in healthcare organizations. These standards are not just benchmarks but are integral to ensuring safe, high-quality care. They are designed to be reasonable, achievable, and surveyable, aligning with the state-of-the-art expectations in healthcare.

The Multi-Step Development Process

  1. Identification of Needs:
    • New requirements emerge from scientific literature, discussions with committees, accredited organizations, professional associations, and consumers.
    • Focus is on patient safety, quality of care, health outcomes, legal compliance, and measurable impact.
  2. Drafting Standards:
    • Utilizing inputs from technical advisory panels, focus groups, and experts, the Joint Commission drafts new standards.
    • This collaborative approach ensures a broad perspective, encompassing diverse healthcare views.
  3. Field Review:
    • Draft standards are nationally distributed for review.
    • The Joint Commission invites comments via their website, fostering transparency and inclusivity.
  4. Revisions and Approval:
    • Post feedback, necessary revisions are made.
    • The standards undergo review and approval by executive leadership, ensuring they meet the stringent criteria.
  5. Enhancing Survey Process:
    • The survey process is updated to incorporate new standards.
    • Pilot testing ensures the feasibility and effectiveness of these changes.
  6. Educating Surveyors:
    • Surveyors receive training on assessing compliance with new standards.
    • This education ensures accurate and consistent evaluation across healthcare organizations.
  7. Publication and Implementation:
    • The approved standards are published for field use.
    • This step marks the transition from development to practical application.
  8. Continuous Feedback and Improvement:
    • Once a standard is operational, ongoing feedback is encouraged.
    • This approach underpins continuous improvement and relevancy.

Accessing the Standards

  • The standards, in their Field Review or Prepublication status, are accessible on the Joint Commission’s website.
  • For comprehensive access, the accreditation and certification standards manuals can be purchased from Joint Commission Resources®.
  • Accredited and certified organizations receive one complimentary manual via E-dition®, accessible on Joint Commission Connect® extranet site.


The Joint Commission’s standards are more than just guidelines; they are a testament to a dynamic and evolving process that encapsulates expert opinions, stakeholder feedback, and a commitment to continuous improvement in healthcare quality and safety. This process exemplifies a collaborative, transparent, and systematic approach to developing standards that resonate across the healthcare spectrum, reinforcing the Joint Commission’s role as a custodian of quality and safety in healthcare.