Hospitals encouraging families to activate rapid-response teams

A growing number of hospitals are giving patients and families the ability to “demand immediate attention from experienced medical staff” if they fear a patient’s condition is deteriorating, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the Journal, a number of states, including Massachusetts, South Carolina, Maryland and others are implementing programs that allow patients and family to call for advanced clinician support.  Signs of danger can appear hours or even days before a patient suffers a life-threatening condition such as cardiac arrest or internal bleeding. But busy nurses may not have the time to observe subtle changes, or may fail to respond quickly if a family member voices concern. Medical interns often don't have enough experience to recognize a patient who is deteriorating, and studies show patients are particularly vulnerable on nights and weekends, when hospitals are often thinly staffed and those on duty may hesitate to call in senior physicians.

Programs vary by hospital, but most rapid-response teams include a physician and nurse with intensive-care training, and a respiratory therapist; others may have nurses and administrators who can quickly assess a patient.

(SOURCES: Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com,  September 2, 2009; The Wall Street Journal, http://wsj.com, accessed September 14, 2009)