Hospitals use new ER strategies to reduce errors

Hospitals are revamping their emergency departments with new triage systems and separate ED areas to reduce medicals errors, missed or delayed diagnoses, and improve doctor-nurse communication, reports the Wall Street Journal.

At-risk patients at Abington Memorial Hospital near Philadelphia will be seen by a doctor and nurse together--quickly after arrival--so that both caregivers hear vital patient information.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston is using a "trigger" system that looks at five vital signs during triage to determine which patients should be seen and treated faster.

Some hospitals are having nurses and doctors huddle when reviewing patient data so that no information is missed. Still, other hospitals are using time-outs at discharge to give nurses the opportunity to stop the discharge process, if necessary.

In a related effort to reduce errors in the ER, hospitals and their liability insurers are looking back on resolved claims to see what went wrong and why to prevent such errors from happening again, notes the WSJ's Health Blog. However, ER doctors point out that such analysis overlooks real-time conditions in often overcrowded emergency rooms, which may make errors less grievous.

"There are tangible things we can fix, like making sure we get the call back from radiology on time, but we've outstripped the capacity of the emergency-medicine system in a lot of ways, and we are asked to do a job where it's oftentimes not realistic to be 100 percent perfect" Roger Band, an emergency physician at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, tells the Health Blog.

For more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- check out the related WSJ Health Blog post