For the fifth straight year, a preventable safety mistake known as ‘Failure to Rescue’ is the leading cause of preventable death in U.S. hospitals. More than surgical mistakes, the wrong or overdose of drugs, or unforeseeable complications; ‘Failure to Rescue’ is the most common preventable problem.
Failure to rescue refers to cases in which caregivers fail to notice or respond when a patient is dying of preventable complications. These complications usually begin as mild (but detectable) and, in Failure to Rescue cases, are not treated until it is too late. Failure to Rescue caused 128 out of 1,000 preventable deaths in U.S. hospitals between 2004 and 2006. The Fifth Annual Healthgrades Study cited the failure of medical professionals, nurses and doctors alike, to notice increasing minor symptoms as the cause of dire results.
Failure to Rescue should be a concern of anyone who is hospitalized or has a loved one in the hospital. It is estimated that, at least, 75% of ‘Code Blue’ (a common term for patients in acute distress) are preceded by a Failure to Rescue. Painkillers, typically given after surgery, can increase the probability of a Failure to Rescue, because the symptoms of the painkillers can sometimes mask a more serious problem. Also, while a hospital’s patient to staff ratio is relevant, the more determining factor is the training and expertise of the staff, and whether they have the resources to do their job.
So what can you do?
A growing number of hospitals across the country are utilizing a procedure known as ‘Condition H’. Condition H allows a patient or loved one to summon emergency help, the same emergency number that doctors and nurses use, when they feel distress. Early studies have shown that hospitals that allow the patient to make sure they are not the victim of preventable error decreases the rate of Failure to Rescue.
Second, make sure your hospital staff has the necessary training and resources for your particular problem. In this age of hospital overcrowding and overloaded hospital staff, it is worth the inquiry to see if the hospital you are considering is properly trained and equipped, including using ‘Condition H’… you may just save your own life.