Reducing Hospital Errors

Jul 15, 2013

It’s estimated that more than 100,000 people a year die as a result of hospital errors. 

In emergency situations, when every second counts, even small mistakes can make the difference between a good outcome and a bad one. But there's a  new tool for reducing errors when children are brought in to the emergency room for urgent care.

The Broselow tape is a brightly colored special kind of tape measure seen on gurneys in real   hospitals all over the world. It gives emergency room doctors and nurses an important piece of crucial information to help them make quick decisions.

“The most important thing is to have a weight because all our medications are based on their weight in kilograms and it’s precious moments to get a child to hold still on a scale," says Emma White, an ER nurse at Lewis Gale Hospital in Blacksburg.

" So when the baby comes in you take them and you lay them down on the bed. And at the very top there’s an arrow that says place head here so you put their head on the red strip and stretch them out straight with their heel down and the area where their heel marks is an estimate of how much they would weigh based on their height.”

The colors on the Broselow tape coordinate with a color-coded drawer and chart which gives the exact doses for medications based on weight.

“So that you don’t have to take the time and calculate and figure out you know it’s .01 per kilo and they’re 10 kilos, when it’s a stressful, critical situation where those seconds matter," says White.

The Broselow tape was invented in 1989.  Now Broselow has rolled out a new addition to this vital tool. It’s a computer component that takes the tape one step further.  It’s called Artemis.

“And up at the top here there’s a bank of colors that are in the same order as the tape and you just click on the color that she matches, which is for her, purple, and then it has flow sheets of what you need to do to take care of them based on what their complaint is.”

Over the last year, Artemis has been implemented in dozens of Virginia hospitals. A web based system cuts the time it used to take to search through manuals on line.  The color coding shortens the time for finding the information and the new QR code, also known as a hashtag instantly updates doctors and nurses via their smartphones.

“This is more than just getting the drug, it’s kind of like a collaborative tool," says Peter Lazar, CEO of
 ebroselow, the company, which makes the new system.

" So the hospital will display this onto a wall or have a big monitor where you can see it.”

Lazar says it’s difficult to get information about the numbers of medical errors because hospitals don’t like to publicize their mistakes.  But the first independent study of Artemis was recently completed at the University of Kentucky’s children’s hospital.

“I was actually a little bit worried up front. I was pleased that the study was going on and then I heard that they were going to give then nurses 5 minutes of training on Artemis, which had me really worried because, basically it’s not fair. They were using their system for years and yet with five minutes of training they were going to compare this against Artemis. Nevertheless, the result was that they had a 73 percent reduction in errors in using the Artemis approach," he said.

And in emergency situations, where a few seconds can make all the difference, Lazar hopes to see the new Broselow Artemis program become as widely used as Dr. Peter Broselow’s famous tape is now.