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Thursday, April 15, 2010

If you have a family member in the hospital: Rapid Response methods

Our Rapid Response Work Group of the Consumer Health Quality Council of Health Care for All will encourage insurers in Massachusetts to publicize an important message to their members throughout Massachusetts. We hope they'll tell people how they can call for a Rapid Response method or team in the hospital, if needed, to rescue a family member whose health is suddenly deteriorating in the hospital. We hope they'll include it in their print and e-newsletters and emails to their members.

The announcement will alert people that certain warning signs often precede, by several hours, a usually fatal heart attack or respiratory arrest in the hospital. "Failure to rescue" is one of the most common causes of in-hospital deaths, so this could save many people's lives.

The announcement reads like this:

Have a Family Member in the Hospital?

Be aware that certain signs can warn that a heart attack or respiratory arrest can occur in the next few hours:

A sustained noticeable change, either an increase or decrease, in their:

Breathing rate;

Heart rate or Pulse; or

Blood pressure;

Or if they experience Confusion.

You can ask the nurse about the specific criteria your hospital uses.

If you see that your loved one is experiencing one or more of these signs while in the hospital, you can insist that the hospital respond promptly with a "Rapid Response Method" or a "Rapid Response Team." That's a new state law (Chapter 305 of Massachusetts General Laws), and is required by the hospital's accrediting body, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

Non-Massachusetts residents should realize that you, too, can call for a Rapid Response, per the JCAHO regulations, even if you don't have a state law requiring it.

Read another story about rapid response teams.

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