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Hospitals Allow Patients, Families To Activate Rapid Response Teams

Armen Hareyan's picture

About 20 U.S. hospitals are allowing patients and their families tomake emergency calls to "rapid response teams," which are designed toidentify patients before they "crash, or 'code,' in respiratory orcardiac distress," the Washington Post reports.

Therapid response system was developed as part of a national initiative toreduce preventable deaths in hospitals. Teams comprise nurses,respiratory therapists and physicians, as well as patient advocates andsocial workers in some cases. Hospital staff typically call for theteam, but in some hospitals, patients and their families can "activatethe system if they feel a patient is failing or not getting neededmedical attention," according to the Post.

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Themove to allow families to call the teams is based on the belief thatfamily members are very familiar with a patient and often can recognizeproblems or abnormal behavior before physicians. Kathy Duncan, afaculty expert on rapid response teams at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement,said, "Families know these patients better than anybody else," adding,"It's a natural progression of the culture of safety in the hospital.Everybody has a resource to call for help with the patient."

Whilesome hospital staff members initially are concerned that patients andfamilies will call the teams for nonemergencies, hospitaladministrations have said the teams have been used sparingly, the Postreports. A few studies have shown hospitals with rapid response teamsexperienced a decline in mortality and codes outside the intensive careunit, but measuring the value of the system is difficult, and it isunclear whether other initiatives contributed to the declines,according to the Post.

Currently, hospitals can decide whether to implement rapid response teams, but the Joint Commission,formerly known as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of HealthcareOrganizations, could vote in December to make the teams mandatory inall medical centers (Wang, Washington Post, 9/4).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . TheKaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service ofThe Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.