Agnes Cappabianca worked as a stroke nurse manager at NYU Lutheran Medical Center, a Brooklyn-based teaching hospital. She was in the middle of a shift when the unthinkable happened—she suffered a stroke and found herself admitted to the hospital as a patient in her own ward.
The hospital’s rapid response team (RRT)—one that Agnes had helped train and prepare for these critical situations—sprang into action. Within 30 minutes, the team had final results of her CT scan and blood tests and began to administer tPA treatment.
Her role in advocating advances in stroke care within the hospital seems to have saved her life.
The primary goal of rapid response
The American Heart Association and the American Stoke Association® have warned since 2010 that “the benefits of tPA in patients with acute ischemic stroke are time-dependent.” The associations’ guidelines recommend a door-to-needle time of 60 minutes or less for the treatment to be effective.
In most hospital settings, the process for communicating the needs of a newly admitted stroke patient to care team members is manually intensive. These workflows usually have many steps, numerous decision points and multiple handoffs—creating many opportunities for communication breakdowns and delays in a situation in which every second counts.
One of the primary goals all RRTs strive for should be to reduce the number of steps in the communication process—including the number of decision points, communication handoffs and number of people involved in transmitting the information.
Some hospitals have achieved this goal by implementing a unified communication and collaboration solution that automates many of the steps in the RRT process, such as sending notifications to all team members—including team leadership—at the same time. With just one call, schedules are analyzed and the appropriate care team members are identified and contacted simultaneously—based on their preferred contact method.
This eliminates numerous steps and players from the communication processes and makes significant strides toward improving patient outcomes by speeding time to treatment.
Building an effective rapid response protocol
Pre-planning is required for a communication platform to optimize the capabilities of RRTs. Evidence based guidelines and individual hospital protocols determine the number and composition of responding teams. Some hospitals assign different care team members to different teams depending on urgency levels.
For example, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township, Michigan, has two RRTs. One is dedicated to Level II traumas and does not include an anesthesiologist in the alert system because Level II trauma patients rarely require advanced airway management. However, the Level I trauma RRT—the team assigned to the most critical cases—does include an anesthesiologist.
Deciding whom to alert depending on the urgency of the situation is a key factor in RRT success.
Another important factor is identifying timelines for each care team member’s arrival at the patient’s bedside. For St. Rita’s Medical Center, a 419-bed hospital in Lima, Ohio, the pre-set arrival time for the rapid response nurse is three minutes; it’s five minutes for their 4A nurse. St. Rita’s also set guidelines for both the physician arrival and ordering of the CT scan at 10 minutes.
An effective communication platform feature that aids RRT outcomes is an automated callback and escalation process. This eliminates critical minutes being wasted on resending notifications and manually escalating the issue to another provider when team members do not arrive on time.
The proof is in the results
St. John Hospital and Medical Center (SJHMC) in Detroit aimed to comply with the guidelines set by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, all of which call for having CT scans interpreted within 45 minutes of the patient’s arrival and having treatment administered within 60 minutes.
SJHMC implemented PerfectServe Synchrony™ and used the flexibility of the platform to develop its stroke team protocol. The protocol called for alerts to a multidisciplinary team of nurses, physicians and staff from neurology, the ED and neurosurgery, as well. Each team member’s preferred method of contact was configured in PerfectServe Synchrony so that when a stroke alert is sent from the ED, each member (or their on-call counterpart) is contacted via their preferred method.
The ability to contact team members directly on their personal mobile devices, as opposed to using overhead paging systems, eliminates the potential for missed pages.
After the system and process were implemented, SJHMC saw significant improvements in time to treatment for its stroke patients. The on-call neurologists’ response times dropped 90%, from 22 minutes to just 2 minutes.
Their door-to-CT scan completion time decreased 41%, from 78 minutes to 46 minutes.
Additionally, SJHMC was able to administer life-saving tPA to three times more stroke patients than they were before.
Making lasting, life-saving process improvements
Most hospitals in the Unites States have some version of an RRT in place for major medical events. Some hospitals have even included local EMS organizations in their rapid alert processes in order to improve speed-to-treatment times.
There’s no question that streamlined and automated communication aids RRTs in their work to lower mortality rates for stroke patients and other traumatic injuries.
Rapid response alerts have proven benefits for clinicians, too. Having a rapid response alert program in place eliminates stress and frustration for the ED staff, which usually has the primary responsibility of initiating treatment to stroke and trauma patients.
In addition to simultaneous instant alerts to appropriate response team members, PerfectServe Synchrony’s rapid response alert system also sends activation notices to hospital leadership. These notices include the time the alert was activated and the time each care team member arrived (as input by the nurses involved). This additional insight into rapid response operations gives healthcare leaders the opportunity to identify problem areas and make lasting process improvements that ultimately save more lives.
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When communications work, patients win
In every hospital, communication is at the heart of what care teams do. Physicians need to communicate with one another for consultations; nurses need to reach physicians to update them and receive treatment order. Case managers need to communicate with nurses and physicians to ensure on-time discharges and proper care transitions.