Patient Safety and Quality Improvement

Understanding Quality

More and more, consumers are researching hospitals and physicians before they decide where to seek care. However, it can be a confusing process. Health care quality can be judged in a variety of ways. You can research the experience of physicians—their training, certifications and years in a specialized field of medicine.

When evaluating hospitals, you can look at mortality (death) rates, patient satisfaction scores and other measures. You can also seek information from regulatory agencies and nonprofit groups that have developed their own indicators for judging hospital performance.

Johns Hopkins Medicine's Patient Safety and Quality website is a user-friendly resource that helps consumers understand and compare quality and safety data across the institution's five inpatient adult hospitals, including Howard County General Hospital, and its home health care group.

Howard County General Hospital has put into place many innovative programs and processes to improve the care our patients receive:

Provider Order Management

Provider Order Management (POM) is an electronic order system through which physicians and other providers enter orders for patient medication, diagnostic treatment and admissions. Its benefits include timely submission and implementation of orders, as well as improved accuracy for an overall increase in patient safety. In addition to eliminating medication errors due to illegible handwriting, the system screens for drug allergies, drug interactions and proper dosages.

Correct Labeling of Lab Specimens

To ensure that blood specimens are labeled correctly, HCGH began using the Iatric MobiLab on all inpatient units in 2006. Iatric MobiLab requires staff to scan a patient’s armband and confirm his or her date of birth before labels are printed on a portable printer. The system has resulted in a significant decrease in labeling errors.

Rapid Response Teams

The goal of the Rapid Response Team (RRT) is to prevent a code blue: a cardiopulmonary arrest during which a patient stops breathing or his heart stops beating. The RRT protocol tries to identify precursor signs before a cardiopulmonary arrest takes place and, ideally, prevent it. Often, signs and symptoms of pre-arrest can occur from six to 24 hours prior to the arrest itself. Nursing staff throughout the hospital are taught to identify those signs and call the RRT for assistance. The RRT is a multidisciplinary team that includes an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse, a respiratory therapist, and a hospitalist physician. The main function of the team is to assist the bedside nurse in assessing, stabilizing and treating the patient, communicating vital information to the attending physician and/or family members and, if necessary, transferring the patient to a higher level of care.

Infection Control:  MRSA Screening Program

Howard County General Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) tests all patients upon admission, and at regular intervals, to identify Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) infections and isolate infected patients. Patients who test positive are placed in contact isolation for the length of their hospital stay, even when moved to other units, resulting in a safer environment for all patients. The patient’s electronic records are flagged, so precautions are taken each time they return to the hospital.

A Program for Safety

The safety and well-being of our patients are our highest priorities. When patients are admitted to HCGH, admitted for surgery or when they arrive for any invasive procedure, a nurse reviews patient safety information with the patient and family, including detailed infection control and safety precautions. 

Involving Patients and Their Families

As a patient, you and your family are valuable partners in your care. The HCGH care team encourages your active participation in medical and care decisions.

A prime example is our Joint Academy, which requires patients to have a family member or friend to actively serve as a coach, from the introductory orientation through surgery and hospital-based physical therapy as well as following up with that therapy when the patient is home.