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Rapid Response Teams No Substitute for Wrong Bed Assignment

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, September 23, 2010

Since then, says Don Goldmann, MD, IHI senior vice president, rapid response teams have proliferated in hundreds to thousands of hospitals.

Goldmann says that while he agrees in principle with Pronovost's and Litvak's arguments, "Emergency department physicians and staff can't tell in every case which patients are going to experience some problems, even though when they are admitted they look like they'll be fine on a regular unit."

He also says that while he knows some question the validity of studies that says rapid response teams do save lives, it would hard to test the theory today with a trial. "Most institutional review boards would find it problematic to set up a control group," he says.

In an interview, Litvak expanded on ways to solve the problem. He said that much of the ICU demand may be alleviated by smoothing out elective surgical schedules.  Hospitals can avoid having to move patients out of ICUs, or assigning them to non-monitored beds, by adjusting surgical schedules. That smoothes the flow of patients from the crowded emergency room as well, he said.

Goldmann says that the take-home message of the Pronovost and Litvak commentary should be that "as much as possible, patients' risks should be assessed.  Their point is As much as possible, patients risks should be properly assessed, and if they need an intensive care or monitored bed, that's where they should go."

But Litvak says the problem goes much deeper: poor attention to patient flow management.

"If you ask me today, could you tell me which type of medical error is bigger: errors caused by clinical mistakes or errors from patient flow mismanagement I would have a real problem answering. And yet the whole country is concentrating on the first and the second is off the radar screen. It's at least equally significant and has been completely overlooked."


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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1 comments on "Rapid Response Teams No Substitute for Wrong Bed Assignment"


S. Bork (10/3/2010 at 7:21 PM)
Sorry but this assessment is way off base. Rapid response teams have no basis in development from a bed shortage issue and I assume the gentlemen's response came from poor institutional guidelines or failing bed management at Hopkins. Many patients have been averted a downturn in their condition due to quick response (Rapid Response Teams) by care givers, and some cases families who noticed that "something was not right". Maybe a post op bleed from a low risk lap procedure, or a medication reaction from a new antibiotic.[INVALID]neither requiring an ICU bed. Poor bed management should be a problem of the past. Proper policies and procedures, best practices, skilled personnel and other practices all but eliminate disastrous bed back ups. I suggest JAMA tend to less destructive articles criticizing processes that work great, head off disastrous situations, and are excellent tools in empowering staff, patients and families to raise the quality of healthcare delivered in thousands of hospitals across america.