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AHAP Conference giveaway entry: critical values

Our AHAP Conference registration giveaway continues with today’s entry, from Deborah Vlahov, BS, RN, director of accreditation and patient safety at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Patchogue, NY. Debbie had this to say:

Here is an audit tool we developed for measuring critical values form the lab. Also including the purple sticker we use. Hope you find it useful.

Below you’ll find attached an audit, revised report, and sample sticker used in her organization’s program. Thanks to Debbie for sending in the latest entry. And remember, there’s still plenty of time to enter–click here for a complete description of the contest.




Joint Commission releases more FAQs

The Joint Commission has released another set of FAQs, this time addressing some emergency management, environment of care, and Universal Protocol concerns. Though you can see the full list of FAQs by clicking here, I’m going to highlight the FAQs for the Universal Protocol, as it has been a major trouble spot for hospitals and is a topic we’ve talked about in other AHAP Blog posts.

  • Bilateral procedures: The Joint Commission has addressed the issue of performing site marking for a bilateral procedure by saying it’s not required, but it is recommended. The intent of the Universal Protocol has been to specifically note the correct side of the patient for those surgeries requiring laterality, but this new FAQ was released in acknowledgement that it is possible to perform the wrong bilateral procedure.
  • Documenting the timeout: The Joint Commission has addressed the outcry it received from the field about how onerous a requirement it was to require each element of the timeout be documented individually. This FAQ specifies that it is acceptable to create a check box or brief note that documents that all parts of the timeout were completed. This simple documentation must be in the same part of a patient’s record for each patient, and the components of the full time out have to be listed elsewhere (like in a policy or procedure), but one check box will comply with the Universal Protocol.

Has your facility struggled with the 2009 Universal Protocol? Do these recent FAQs clear up any issues you may have been having with documentation?

Contest Entry: Continuous readiness

Let’s start off the week with our second entry into our free registration to the 2009 AHAP Conference in May. Rules and details can be found in this post. Today’s entry comes from Ronda Reimer, special projects and Joint Commission coordinator with Pella Regional Health Center. She wrote about a recent campaign to improve continuous readiness:

Two years ago upon initiating a continuous readiness campaign I struggled with how to reach the staff and impact their understanding of the regulatory issue that impacted patient safety within the areas of practice.

In the old days we held Joint Commission day “learning fairs” where it was mandatory for all clinical staff to attend. The feed back received from these fairs indicated staff did not want to come in on their day off to attend mandatory inservices.

After much thought, I decided to launch a virtual readiness campaign. The fun part was developing a theme that would be fun and interesting! This was sort of a gamble also however we did not feel we had a lot to lose. The virtual continuous readiness campaign consisted of brief power points posted for staff to access during their shift when it would not detract from patient care.

By accessing the power points they learned about the NPSGs and other regulatory information and mixed in the presentation were virtual quizzes. At the end of each power point the staff member who completed could follow the instructions to print of a certificate of completion and were asked to copy and forward it to the education department.

The education liaison entered participation in to an excel spread sheet and the spread sheets were managed by department managers and lack of participation was reflected in the annual employee review. Participation was rewarding by quarterly drawings for small prizes.

The ultimate reward was when the surveyors showed up on our doorstep on January 13, 2009! I can not tell you how proud I was of our staff! They were so well prepared the surveyors asked me what it was we were doing in our institution to prepare our staff so well. I was so pleased! We will continue with the readiness campaign this year following the survey on a quarterly basis. After all it is “continuous readiness!”

Our first entry to the contest

I’d like to thank Sharon Brauer of Alexian Brothers Medical Center for being our first entry into our AHAP Conference registration giveaway. She has sent in a sample tool for improving patient identification, which I’ve attached here.

Thanks, Sharon, for kicking off the contest for us!

Click on the link below to view the sample tool:

Patient ID Tip

Win a free registration to AHAP ’09

In an effort to make this year’s AHAP Conference as accessible and fun as possible, we’ve decided to run a contest–and each week, we’ll hold a drawing for a free registration to the conference! All you have to do to enter is submit a Tip of the Day for the AHAP Blog.

The rules are simple: write up an accreditation-related tip on the topic of your choosing-a tool you’d like to share with other AHAP members, a story about a recent survey, a short post about how you’ve improved staff education on infection control or how you’re meeting a National Patient Safety Goal, for example. Simply email your tip to me at I’ll post it to the blog as each entry arrives, and you’ll be entered to win a weekly drawing for registration to the conference!

We’ll announce the winners each Friday morning. The contest will run through Friday, April 24th. Questions? Feel free to email me for details. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Has your facility decided to join a Patient Safety Organization?

Though the Final Rule went into effect on January 19, 2009, many organizations are still researching the decision to join a Patient Safety Organization (PSO). PSOs have been almost four years in the making–they are a product of the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 and anxiously awaited by many in the patient safety field. As of today there are 52 listed PSOs from which healthcare organizations can choose from, many of which are from specific states. If you’d like to find out more information about PSOs, visit the AHRQ Web site by visiting

The following is an excerpt from an article I wrote for the March issue of Briefings on Patient Safety on the topic of PSOs. Although a big attraction for hospitals to join PSOs is the added protection that data submitted to a PSO receive, the ultimate goal of PSOs is to increase the quality of patient care on a national scale

Most facilities are interested in joining a PSO not simply because they can now receive analysis on protected data. The underlying reason for joining a PSO is to keep patients safer.

“As information is shared, especially information on rare events that we see, when you start aggregating larger amounts of data, you really start seeing some contributing factors to those events, and that helps you figure out what needs to be fixed within a system to prevent them from happening,” says Amy Goldberg-Alberts, MBA, FASHRM, program director at the ECRI Institute, a nonprofit organization that has been involved with patient safety and event reporting for decades and has created its own PSO.

“The big benefit is to improve patient safety,” says Ronni Solomon, JD, executive vice president and general counsel of the ECRI Institute. “What the law and final regulations do is pave the way to get closer to that goal.” Although the regulations are mostly focused on reporting of data and incidents, the rule is really about understanding why incidents happen and how to change our systems to account for this understanding, Solomon says.

Additionally, PSOs can help facilities reduce the cost of learning by allowing individual facilities to take advantage of collective learning, says Rohde.

“For a small facility, the PSO allows them to combine their knowledge with other facilities’ knowledge and -really benefit from the collective learning of a much larger organization,” says Ken Rohde, consultant for The Greeley Company. The goal of any good reporting system is to fix a problem before is occurs. Any organization that has the opportunity to learn from another’s mistakes can benefit financially, he says.

Representatives for the Peminic-Greeley PSO and the ECRI Institute’s PSO say one of the biggest benefits to joining a PSO is not just data aggregation, but the PSO’s ability to provide solutions for identified trouble spots.

Rohde, who is part of the Peminic-Greeley PSO shared some comments with me about the topic. If you click the link below you’ll hear Ken describing the goal of PSOs, and also some of the benefits of data sharing which is a part of joining a PSO through the Network of Patient Safety Databases. To hear more of what Ken Rohde has to say about PSOs,

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

And we thought doctors’ ties were dirty

Who knew we should be washing our cell phones? According to a recent study in the Annals of Clinical Macrobiology (reports,  cell phones can–and frequently are–covered in bacteria.

Researchers at Ondokuz Mayis University in Samsun, Turkey tested employee cell phones to discover the following alarming statistic: 94.5 percent of the phones they tested were contaminated with bacteria.

Worse yet–some of these phones were contaminated with drug-resistant “superbugs.”

We’ve known for a while now that certain everyday objects that are not washed or cleaned every day–lab coats and ties, for example–can house bacteria  and help it move around the hospital. But how many hospitals are screening cell phones? Is yours? If so, how do you screen phones? What sorts of policies do you have in place to maintain this practice?

MRSA: Not just for hospitals anymore

Not that this is news, per se–but hospitals have been receiving the bulk of MRSA-related press lately. Here’s an unusual bit of news related to the superbug:

While hospitals receive the bulk of attention in the battle to prevent methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the “superbug” can arise in unexpected places-and recently, that unexpected place was the San Diego Zoo, the LA Times reports.

As many as 20 human caretakers were infected at the zoo. The most likely cause appears to be the first known transmission of MRSA from a zoo animal to a human. It appears that a human handler infected a baby elephant, which was being hand-raised by zookeepers because the mother elephant was unable to care for it. The calf then in turn passed the infection back to other zookeepers.

More than a third of the workers involved in caring for the calf were infected with MRSA, developing for the most part mild symptoms.

If you’re interested in reading the full Times article, it can be found here.

FDA issues warning about MRI burns

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning yesterday about the risk of burns to patients who wear transdermal patches. These are medicated patches most often associated with smokers who are trying to quit smoking. These patches have been catching fire during MRI scans because many of them contain a metal backing that’s not always visible to the wearer, or the person administering the scan.

While the FDA is compiling a list of those patches that could ignite during a scan, it has issued the following advice to healthcare workers:

  •  identify those patients who are wearing a patch before the patients have the MRI scan
  • advise those patients about the procedures for removing and disposing of the patch before the MRI scan
  • advise those patients about replacing the patch after the MRI scan

To read the full advisory, click here.

Patient Safety Awareness Week starts March 8th

Patient Safety Awareness Week logoAs many of you may know, Patient Safety Awareness Week is coming up, beginning on Sunday March 8 and running through Saturday March 14. This annual observance, sponsored by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF), serves as a great opportunity for hospitals to not only offer unique and creative patient safety-related programming, but it provides a chance for hospital staff members to connect with the outside community to emphasize patient safety.

This year’s theme, “A Prescription for Patient Safety: One Partnership, One Team” highlights this need to better involve patients in their own care. If you visit the NPSF’s Patient Safety Awareness Week web site, you’ll find a host of suggested activities for patients, staff members, and other community members to take part in as a means of building awareness about patient safety topics. The NPSF also just announced the release of a Universal Compact, which is aims to foster clearer lines of communications among patients and their clinicians.

“The Universal Patient Compact is an evolution of the concept of the Patient’s Bill of Rights,” said Diane Pinakiewicz, MBA, president of the NPSF in an interview. “It will focus on the patient and provider working together as a team. We want to get the patient’s voice inside the provider team, and build a partnering between the parties.”

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) has also released some helpful reminders specifically for those people visiting hospitalized patients in honor of the week. Some of these include:

  • Sanitize hands before and after your visit
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Before you bring the kids, flowers, or food, check to make sure they are allowed
  • Don’t contribute to the clutter by bringing unnecessary personal items

Click here to find the full list.

I know lots of facilities use Patient Safety Awareness Week as a chance to host hospitalwide events that focus on keeping patients safe and engage both staff members and community members in creative ways. What is your hospital doing? What have you been a part of in the past as far as event programming?