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Hospitals now using consistent codes to avoid confusion

Washington hospitals are adopting new communication safety measures so that no matter what medical center a patient is in, “code blue,” for example, means cardiac arrest.

The changes follow a survey that discovered at least eight codes were used to call for help when a patient’s heart stopped.

“Clearly, this was variation we had to eliminate,” said Carol Wagner, vice president of patient safety for the Washington State Hospital Association.

Hospitals use codes to call for emergency assistance. It’s a way to summon help without alarming patients and visitors.

With a fluid job market that leads to staff turnover or even some medical professionals working at more than one hospital, different code meanings could be confusing.

“When someone calls a ‘code blue’ for a patient going into cardiac arrest, it is vital that a crash team and not the security guards race to the patient’s room,” said Larry Schecter, chief medical officer at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett.

Spokane hospitals participated in the changes.

Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center helped develop the new code consistencies.

Sacred Heart and Deaconess Medical Center served together on a task force to design procedures for isolation precautions that use colors on patient room doors to indicate contagious diseases. Having these isolation measures in place is considered a key for curbing the spread of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Other new safety measures include color-coded wristbands that help hospital staff identify things such as allergies.

And hospitals will adopt a surgical checklist that includes a timeout before an operation to reduce errors.



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