Corporate Compliance

Tip: Color-code observation patients

Compliance Monitor, June 8, 2005

Because observation is a status, not a location, hospitals don't need an area dedicated solely to observation patients. But if your facility doesn't have an observation ward, Arlene Baril, MS, RHIA, vice president of HIM and software services for UASI in Cincinnati, says it's a good idea to color-code observation patients.

For instance, make everything that relates to observation patients (e.g., face sheets, addressograph plates, ID bands) green. This allows nurses to quickly and easily identify and regularly reassess observation patients.

"This also gives an easy way to document when observation hours start and end," Baril says.

Better yet, if you can swing it, dedicate an area to observation. "You see fewer errors that way," Baril says. "Patients aren't lost in the shuffle because then nurses who work a unit don't care whether you're an inpatient or in observation. You're just a patient on her unit."

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