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AARP Details Improvements to Hospital Rooms to Enhance Patient Safety

Online interactive tool designed to prevent hospital mistakes (Apr. 3)

AARP The Magazine, the journal of the American Association of Retired Persons, has created a “Safe Patient Room of the Future” online infographic. The interactive tool details 16 technological improvements designed to enhance patient safety and reduce hospital mistakes. The recommendations include:

  • Double-sided linen closets allow housekeeping staff to replenish supplies without having to enter the patient’s room, thereby minimizing the spread of infection and allowing patients to rest undisturbed.
  • Bar codes on every dose of medication increase safety by matching the right medicine to the appropriate patient. Providers must scan both the bar code on the medication and the one on the patient’s wristband before the medication can be administered.
  • A two-bin supply system helps keep supply areas stocked so providers aren’t caught short.
  • A hygiene station in the patient’s room lets providers wash their hands as close as possible to the point of care.
  • A whiteboard on the bathroom door provides a place where patients, providers, and family members can exchange information.
  • Hand bars all around the bathroom help patients move about more safely.
  • Bed alarms, built into the bed or placed under the mattress, emit a signal to unit nurses when a patient attempts to get out of bed.
  • Portable disinfecting units use ultraviolet light to kill bugs that cause common hospital-acquired infections, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
  • Checklists provide guidelines for preventing or reducing infections that result from certain hospital procedures, such as inserting a central line or a catheter.
  • Vents in ceilings keep airborne agents from contaminating other patients.
  • Smart pumps deliver fluids, nutrients, and medications to patients at precisely controlled rates.
  • Fall prevention kits include color-coded nonslip socks, a lap blanket, and a wristband that alerts providers to the patients’ greater need for help with mobility.
  • Germ-resistant copper surfaces — including IV poles, bed rails, and faucets — reduce infection rates. Like some other metals, copper is naturally antimicrobial.
  • At the hygiene station, infrared motion sensors cause the faucet to light up when caregivers enter the room, reminding them to wash their hands. Some motion sensors can activate the flow of water automatically.
  • Beds with translation technology help providers communicate with patients who speak a language other than English.
  • Real-time vital signs, such as heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure readings, are transmitted to the nurses’ computer outside the patient’s room. The computer triggers an alert when vital signs deteriorate.

Resources for the AARP’s “Safe Patient Room of the Future” included Virginia Mason Medical Center; Englewood Hospital and Medical Center; Sentara CarePlex Hospital; University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers; Northwestern Memorial Hospital; Rush University Medical Center; and Montefiore Medical Center.

Source: AARP; April 3, 2013.

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