Rapid Response Teams On Call to Prevent Heart Attacks
Medical TV dramas have made the “STAT, code blue” shouts of emergency room staff a familiar scene. While common in real life hospital ERs, this type of highly expert emergency team approach is typically not used to rescue patients already in the hospital who may be sliding toward cardiac arrest. But through the introduction of Rapid Response Teams (RRT), public hospitals are averting cardiac arrests, preventing life-threatening moments, and saving lives.
“Calling the Rapid Response Team is better than calling a code. During a code everyone is hyped up, your patient is pulseless – it can be chaotic. But with the RRT your patient is still with you and the help is there right away,” says Bellevue Assistant Director of Nursing, Alma Pamandanan. “We are moving the ICU to the patient and bringing the highly specialized team together to prevent a heart attack and have a better chance of saving the patient.”
"My nurse told me she never saw so many people move so fast. I'm really grateful and appreciative," said Sarah Smith*, a patient whose life was saved when a Rapid Response Team sprang into action as her vital signs began to deteriorate.
Since the Rapid Response Teams were created at Bellevue in January 2006, the hospital experienced a 75 percent reduction in cardiac arrests among patients outside the intensive care units. As the hospital staff becomes familiar with the RRT process, the Bellevue teams are being activated more frequently – nearly three times more often than during the first month of the intervention effort. Coney Island and North Central Bronx Hospitals are also showing great results. Each facility already experienced a 50 percent reduction of cardiac arrests since April 2006.
Rapid Response Teams, now in place at all 11 HHC hospitals, are a patient safety intervention strategy recommended by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). RRTs of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, transporters, and other clinical staff are activated to quickly treat patients identified as imminently at-risk for a heart attack. A noticeable change in a patient’s breathing, temperature or other indicators could trigger a call to the RRT. If warranted, patients are moved into the close monitoring of the ICU where their chances of surviving a heart attack are greater.
Rapid Response Teams are one of many best practices HHC is implementing as part of the corporate wide patient safety efforts.
* Not the real name.