April 14, 2010 | | Comments 1
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Blanket warmers and other tales of the temperature wars + a free tool

At this point, it appears that the concern with the management of blanket warmer temperatures still represents a stumbling block for some folks (folks who, I might add, have spent a fair amount of time trolling the Web, periodically stumbling on this not-quite-so-noble blog in search of guidance).

One of my frequently employed aphorisms is that everyone gets to make their own way in the world, and the issue of blanket warmers is a shining example of the practical application of that very concept.

While we do have the ECRIs of the world holding forth on the topic of blanket warmer temperatures, it is important to keep in mind that, in the absence of any regulatory strictures (which is certainly the case here), the overriding goal/benchmark/expectation/compliance strategy is to eliminate or minimize to the extent possible the risks associated with those most dangerous of entities: the overwarmed blanket. Strong men grow weak at the knees at the mere mention of this scourge, second only to the Comfy Chair of Spanish Inquisition lore, but I digress.

Seriously, folks, this does not have to be an overly burdensome undertaking, given the lack of a regulatory oversight provides us a wide-open opportunity to figure out how we’re going to manage the process. No documentation requirements, no daily logging requirements — the world is our oyster (a toasty oyster to be sure), and we have only to shuck the various opinions, myths, legends, hyperbole, etc., which appear to have attached themselves to this topic.

I mean really, what’s the genuine likelihood of a “failure mode” relative to blanket warmth? Remember, the prioritization matrix for risks pushes us first in the direction of risk that are likely, as opposed to merely being within the realm of possibility, which probably places blanket warmer temperatures in the queue ahead of asteroids striking your facility or perhaps the odd alien invasion, but well behind concerns like patient falls, making sure clinical alarms function properly, and avoiding hospital acquired infections (which, by the way, allows for my personal invitation to each and every one of you to journey to that hotbed of infection control, Las Vegas, for some good advice about managing infection control risks in the physical environment during the 4th Annual Hospital Safety Center Symposium May 6-7).

But Steve, you might well ask, is there a way to wrestle the blanket issue to the ground for keeps? And to that, dear reader, I believe that I can respond with a resounding you betcha!

Over the years, I have only increased my belief in the power of a solid risk assessment. It’s really the best way to figure out the best strategy for managing risks within your four walls.

And to help you out on this little endeavor, I’m going to share with you a sample risk assessment for blanket warmer temperatures (click Blanket_Warmer_Risk_Assessment_v_1.0).

Folks who listened in to our audio conference back in February, “Physical Environment Compliance 2010: The Joint Commission’s Latest Interpretations and Survey Hotspots,” already have this information, which is a good reason to keep an eye on future events — that’s where we first make stuff available.

But now the devotees of this blog may reap the benefits of the blanket warmer assessment, too. Talk about excitement!

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Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.

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  1. Excellent Blog Steve. We are moving more and more to a society that needs to have every little detail in a policy or regulation that it boggles the mind.

    Your reminder to go back to risk control 101 is a great reminder. Just because something migh happen does not mean we need to go to such extremes that we end up creating rules that no one follows.

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