Monday Medical: Improving care to save lives | SteamboatToday.com

Monday Medical: Improving care to save lives

Christine McKelvie

Steamboat Springs — Hospitals save lives every day, thanks to highly skilled health care professionals and continually advancing technology. Yet the very complexity that can bring someone back from the brink of death also can result in incidents of medical harm. — Hospitals save lives every day, thanks to highly skilled health care professionals and continually advancing technology. Yet the very complexity that can bring someone back from the brink of death also can result in incidents of medical harm.

— Hospitals save lives every day, thanks to highly skilled health care professionals and continually advancing technology. Yet the very complexity that can bring someone back from the brink of death also can result in incidents of medical harm.

Recognizing this unfortunate fact, hospitals nationwide voluntarily participated in the 100,000 Lives Campaign in 2005-06. An estimated 122,000 lives were saved when caregivers focused on reducing medical errors and strengthening quality of care in key areas.

Now, the stakes have been raised. Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs is one of 3,000 hospitals committed to protecting patients through the 5 Million Lives Campaign. This project aims to prevent 5 million instances of medical harm in hospitals across the United States within two years.

“This initiative reinforces our existing commitment to patient safety,” said Linda Casner, senior director of patient safety and education at YVMC. “Each focus area requires us to adopt and implement a defined set of best practices to guide care. Our goal for participating in the campaign is to reduce the likelihood of harm during the course of a patient’s care.”

YVMC received a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Trust last month to assist in covering expenses. The hospital is matching that amount in order to purchase equipment and educate staff, physicians and patients. YVMC has nine teams, each with an assigned leader, to steer the changes.

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With the drug-resistant “staph” infection called MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) frequently in the news, one initiative deals directly with preventing transmission of this “super bug.” At YVMC, certain surgical patients are being screened before surgery to determine whether they may be unknowingly harboring MRSA, which lives on the skin.

Additional precautions to prevent MRSA from spreading between patients include using proper hand hygiene, cleaning patient rooms and supplies, and using appropriate contact procedures for staff and family members.

Other types of infections can occur when intravenous medications are delivered through a central venous catheter or “line” inserted into a patient’s vein. Patients who have critical injuries or illnesses may have a line in place for days or even weeks.

To prevent spread of bacteria to a patient’s bloodstream, a set of standardized procedures has been developed. YVMC care providers will implement the recommended insertion technique and daily care routines.

Delivery of medications is another area of intense scrutiny. As YVMC continues to use the recommendations developed in the 100,000 Lives Campaign, it now also is concentrating on high-alert medications.

“Narcotics, sedatives and insulin are examples of high-alert medications,” Casner explained. “Anti-coagulants, often mistakenly called ‘blood thinners,’ are also on this list.

“Nationwide, medication errors are one of the most common types of medical mistakes. We are asking patients to partner with YVMC by listing all drugs and dosages they are taking, including over-the-counter vitamins and supplements, to reduce the possibility of errors.”

Wallet-sized medication cards are available at YVMC. Anyone who has questions or who needs help filling out a card is welcome to call the hospital pharmacy at 870-1100.

Other initiatives in the 5 Million Lives Campaign involve reducing surgical complications, preventing ventilator-associated pneumonia and pressure ulcers (often called “bed sores”) and deploying rapid response teams to respond at the bedside at the first sign of patient decline.

“We created our rapid response team in February 2006,” Casner said.

“We credit this team with saving at least one life and reducing the length of stay for several hospital patients. During 2008, we will develop the procedures to include patients and families in the activation process.”

YVMC’s Board of Trustees has endorsed the hospital’s commitment to the campaign. Earlier this month, Casner and Chief of Patient Services Judy Zuccone attended the Colorado kickoff as well as the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s national conference.

“Adopting these initiatives is no small task,” Casner said. “It involves changing behaviors and models of medical care delivery, improving communications, purchasing new equipment and altering our supply orders.

“This campaign is about preventing harm and saving lives,” Casner said. “We are already deeply engaged in this process.”

Christine McKelvie is public relations director of Yampa Valley Medical Center.

On the ‘Net

For more information about the Five Million Lives campaign in Colorado, visit Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Web site at http://www.yvmc.org.