The NY Times reported this week on new hospital initiatives to answer patients' call buttons. Sometimes, inattentiveness at hospitals arises from negligence. Other times, it merely requires understaffed facilities and overworked schedule. The potentially frightening consequences remain the same, and hospitals are working to fix the problem.
The most efficient system thus far developed is that of Presbyterian Healthcare Services in New Mexico according to the article. There, a centralized operator handles all call-button requests. The operator then contacts help staff intelligently, relegating available workers to the distressed location. In case of emergency, instead of having a nurse check slowly on the patient, an operator can mobilize an entire emergency response team -- a process that has already saved lives. Presbyterian also reports that 140 of daily calls are made in error by patients who either roll over the button or think it is the television remote. This new system prevents medical professionals from wasting much of their time each day.
The operator system has increased Presbyterian's call response promptness by 35% nationally. Their complaints have diminished 92%.
One hospital in the Bronx has begun a program that trains all medical staff to drop whatever they are doing -- if possible -- to check on a patient with a call light illuminated. A "rounding" system has also been set up in some hospitals, where staff are required to make rounds every hour to check on patients. This cuts down on call bell use.
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