April 2006

Rapid Response Teams are Saving Lives


At Catholic Health Initiatives’ National Patient Safety Conference in early February, an exciting trend became clear: Rapid Response Teams are saving lives across the system. “With time, we believe that Rapid Response Teams will only become more important to our hospitals and our patients,” said Mary Osborne, RN, director of clinical performance improvement.

During the conference, attended by 77 representatives from 49 Catholic Health Initiatives facilities, the national Patient Safety Team took an impromptu poll. “We invited attendees to step up to a flip chart and write the number of lives saved at their facilities by Rapid Response Teams,” said Jeff Norton, director of clinical services for Catholic Health Initiatives. “It wasn’t a scientific poll, but it was enlightening: the total number of lives saved across the system was 89. We realized that was more than the number of people in the room, which was very motivating for the attendees.” Rapid Response Teams are comprised of clinicians such as physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists. A team is called when a patient shows signs of rapid decline. The team arrives quickly, evaluates the patient immediately and orders appropriate interventions. In addition to saving lives, research shows that Rapid Response Teams reduce length of patient stay and risks for heart failure, infection, inability to breathe, kidney or liver failure and strokes. Rapid Response Teams are one of six proven interventions promoted by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s 100,000 Lives Campaign, which aims to reduce avoidable patient deaths. At Catholic Health Initiatives’ National Patient Safety Conference, presenters discussed concepts and practical tools for implementing Rapid Response Teams. “Our presenters provided a terrific variety of expertise,” said Mary Osborne, RN, director of clinical performance improvement for Catholic Health Initiatives. “One of the most highly-rated sessions was a panel of representatives from five different market-based organizations that have implemented Rapid Response Teams. Their insights were invaluable to the group, as were their touching stories of lives saved.” The conference was one result of a grant Catholic Health Initiatives received from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for implementation of Rapid Response Teams throughout the system. Catholic Health Initiatives provided each participating hospital with a $1,000 scholarship for each attendee to offset the cost of attendance. The grant funding is also being used to create educational materials, including Rapid Response Team fact sheets for patients and their families. “In addition to helping all of our hospitals implement Rapid Response Teams, we will address ways to refine their use,” said Osborne. “Possibilities include expanding Rapid Response Team availability to more areas of a hospital, such as labor and delivery and even outpatient areas. There are also issues around the best ways to staff teams in smaller hospitals and how to cover for team members when they go on calls. With time, we believe that Rapid Response Teams will only become more important to our hospitals and our patients.” For more information on Rapid Response Teams, contact Mary Osborne at maryosborne@catholichealth.net.