Marty’s Corner - Safety First!
How many times have we heard that expression? Whether it’s about seat belts and car seats, or via an announcement from a pilot explaining the reason for a flight delay, or even related to fire safety at home or in a national forest - safety is essential. In a healthcare environment, risks to patient and staff safety can be minimized in various ways, such as with simple yet critical practices like frequent handwashing.
When it comes to ensuring safety in a food and nutrition services (FNS) department, it’s not only handwashing and food safety that are critical – it also involves ensuring that the tray being served to the patient correctly reflects their current diet order, even if that diet order was changed in the electronic health record just sixty seconds ago. In an earlier edition of this column, I recounted the story of a long-time coworker whose hospitalized father was inadvertently served a tray when he, in fact, was still NPO. Assuming that since the tray was delivered to him, he could consume it, he did so and ended up with great discomfort as well as an additional week in the hospital. That was a pretty expensive meal tray, don’t you think? How do we minimize, or preferably, prevent such occurrences?
One option is by using a barcode to verify the patient’s identity. Barcodes on meal tickets have traditionally been used to track the progress of the tray in the delivery process – particularly in environments offering a room service option. This provides a valuable service to the FNS department as well as the patient. It can help increase patient satisfaction, no doubt, but can also provide a role in patient safety, such as coordinating tray delivery with insulin administration or ingestion of other medication.
More recently, however, technology allows the FNS staff member to also scan the patient’s wristband to verify his or her identity. In addition, it’s a final step to verify that the diet order which the tray represents is still the patient’s current diet order. If something has changed, the FNS staff member is notified immediately and clearly that there is a conflict with the tray, or that the patient is not the one for whom the tray is intended. A dietitian colleague of mine recently authored a column in a professional specialty newsletter, recounting her recent hospitalization when she was never asked to verify her identity before a meal tray was served. Employing features such as wristband scanning along with meal ticket barcode scanning would have ensured that the right tray was going to the right patient, leaving no margin for error.
Safety First! It has several critical applications in our own work environment!
Article by: Marty Yadrick, MBI, MS, RDN, FAND - Director of Nutrition Informatics and former President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Fusion, 1st Quarter, 2019