Local News

Health Experts Take 'Time Out' To Help Prevent Medical Mistakes

Posted June 23, 2004 2:48 a.m. EDT

— Someone goes into the hospital for knee surgery and doctors operate on the wrong knee or the wrong procedure is performed. Those are examples of extreme cases of medical mistakes, but they actually happen every day.

Wednesday was designated as National Time Out Day, a day to focus on preventing errors. The effort also kicks off a new set of standards for all hospitals to follow.

Minutes before James Whitley III went into surgery, his left leg sported a


logo and his doctor's initials. It is the hospital's way of preventing errors and it is about to become standard at all hospitals.

"I am very excited to see this come into play," said Sharon McNamara, director of surgical services at WakeMed.

McNamara heads 'Time Out Day', a national effort to prevent hospital errors.

The new standards mandate a patient's identity be confirmed and reconfirmed before any procedure. The correct surgery site must also be marked.

"At WakeMed, we use the WakeMed logo," McNamara said. "There's no question in the hospital that is what you're looking for when you're looking for the correct site."

In the procedure room, the entire staff must take a time out to once again verbally identify the patient and the procedure.

"If there's anything that disagrees, then we stop right there and we backtrack," McNamara said.

The new rules take effect July 1. Hospitals that do not comply could lose their accreditation.

McNamara is convinced the extra steps will go a long way in preventing mistakes.

"It's a matter of seconds, and when it comes to patient safety, those seconds definitely count," she said.

The new standards include procedures performed at all accredited hospitals, ambulatory care and office-based surgery facilities.