UW News

February 26, 2009

Patient safety standards adopted by Washington hospitals

UW Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center, along with 96 other community hospitals in the state, are implementing standardized patient safety systems to reduce the possibility of human error and prevent mistakes.

The Washington State Hospital Association board, made up of hospital chief executive officers from across the state, endorsed the standardization and encourages all hospitals to implement them by October 2009. Both UW Medical Center and Harborview have already begun the standardization and are educating staff and patients about the system.

“Washington State hospitals are dedicated to providing safe care and we want to remove variations that have the potential to result in harm to patients,” said Carol Wagner, vice president for patient safety at the Washington State Hospital Association. “With many physicians and staff working in multiple hospitals, making sure all hospitals use the same emergency code calls, isolation precautions, surgical checklists, and wrist bands, is a powerful tool for preventing dangerous mistakes.”

Emergency Code Calls — Code calls used to summon immediate assistance in case of an emergency are being standardized across hospitals to avoid confusion from variations in terminology to call for help.

Isolation Precautions — Washington state hospitals are adopting standardized isolation precaution signs and corresponding patient education sheets to protect patients from the spread of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies isolation precautions as one of the most important strategies for reducing the spread of MRSA and other infections.

Surgical Checklist — All Washington hospitals are encouraged to adopt a surgical safety checklist initiated by the World Health Organization and endorsed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. The checklist ensures that surgical teams double-check important details. Using the checklist will significantly increase patient safety, reduce medical errors and streamline surgical procedures.

Wrist Bands — To avoid errors associated with hospitals having separate wristband color codes, Washington state has adopted three standard wristband colors to communicate important information about patient conditions that may have a bearing on their care. The standard colors are purple for do not resuscitate, red for allergies, and yellow for fall risk.