Emergency codes in Pennsylvania healthcare facilities not standardized

Patient Safety Monitor Insider

March 18, 2015

Pennsylvania healthcare facilities use a wide variety of emergency codes, according to the March Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory report released March 12 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Patient Safety Authority. These variances could lead to confusion amongst the healthcare team, which in turn could lead to delay of patient care and/or cause a patient safety event.

A review of data reported to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory revealed that between July 2004 and July 2013, Pennsylvania healthcare facilities used 80 different emergency codes. These codes were then grouped into 37 different categories. One example cited in the article, “code green” had a different meaning at various healthcare facilities; it was used for a patient needing rapid response, a missing person, a combative person, or a stroke depending on the facility.

Pennsylvania does not have a statewide standardized emergency codes system, stated Thomas L. Grace, RN, PhD, vice president Emergency Preparedness, Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), in the article.

Further, Grace stated in the article, his emergency preparedness team has encouraged the use of plain English announcement instead of emergency codes.

Approximately 25 states have recommended replacing emergency codes with plain English to reduce the number of errors.