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Medina Healthcare Adopts Plain Language for Emergency Situations

Monday, July 3, 2017

Hospital news

Medina Healthcare System is joining hospitals across Texas in adopting plain language alerts for emergency situations within its facilities.  Plain language alerts were implemented at Medina Regional Hospital on June 1.

Anyone who has ever been in a hospital has probably heard over the public address system the cryptic words, “Code Pink” or “Code Black” or, more commonly, “Code Blue.”  These color-based alert codes are intended to notify hospital staff and physicians and sometimes the public to an emergency of some kind.

The color-based alert codes typically are unique to each hospital. This means they lack standardization across facilities. When an emergency occurs and time is of the essence, this variation can create confusion or delayed responses. This is particularly true for physicians who work in multiple hospitals and for new employees who have come from different hospitals.  The Texas Hospital Association (THA) has a solution.

THA recommends that hospitals use standardized, plain-language emergency alerts instead of the color-based codes. The alerts are intended to allow hospitals to personalize the information to their facilities and provide site-specific details.

For example, instead of announcing “Code Pink” for a missing infant, a hospital would instead announce “Security alert, missing infant, last seen first-floor lobby.” Hospitals could choose to add additional information as warranted, such as instructions on contacting hospital security.
“We want to assure the public that their safety as patients and visitors is of utmost importance to us,” says CEO Janice Simons.  “Medina Healthcare System is taking steps now to implement the plain language alert system in our facilities. Color codes do not provide response guidance and can be confusing to new staff and visitors. In addition, there was no way to educate visitors and patients about the crucial codes, such as a person with a weapon, a fire, etc.  The plain language alerts identify the location and type of situation, and help us keep everyone safe when seconds matter.”