5 tips to avoiding the never event

Hospital lobby

As the most notorious and feared occurrence in a hospital, the never event--even though rare--can still hit hospitals and can be disastrous. A column in today's Hospitals & Health Networks by Dr. Cary Gutbezahl and Amanda Brown from Compass Clinical Consulting detail a few precautions to avoid the never event. Consider the following tips:

  • Stay current on CMS regulations: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expects 100 percent compliance of the Conditions of Participation. Hospitals and health systems should be aware that federal inspectors are increasingly investigating organizations to ensure compliance. Consider staying current with regulations and researching the department of health literature about corrective action plans. Looking at others' mistakes may help prevent your organization from committing the same.
  • Conduct comprehensive monitoring: "Comprehensive preparation is the best way to avoid compliance problems or limit their extent," Gutbezahl and Brown wrote in the article. Develop a thorough surveillance plan to monitor areas of potential harm, such as looking at whether patient restraints are used appropriately.
  • Obtain governing board oversight: Also ensure that the governing board is involved in the compliance process. Having commitment from the top down to preventing never events shows a hospital-wide dedication.
  • Invest in technology: In addition, the Tribune-Review reports that Excela Health in Pennsylvania is taking the techy approach to preventing errors. As the first health system in the area to use it, Excela invested in the RF Assure Detection System, which sounds a beep if a sponge is left inside a patient. The special sponge microchips add about $15 to each surgery, according to the article.
  • Remember the checklist and physician copilot: There are also less high-tech ways to avoiding never events. ICU checklists, as well as a reminder from a colleague--known as the "copilot"--can cut ICU deaths in half, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Patient safety advocates have championed the checklist movement in all areas of medicine besides the ICU, including surgery. Combining the standard checklists with colleague support could help reduce the rate of errors.