Patient Safety Standards Shape Healthcare Delivery in Mid-Michigan

Sparrow Health System joins nearly 15,000 healthcare providers across the United States — from small, rural clinics to expansive, complex medical centers — in using standards created by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations to guide how we administer care to our patients and continuously improve our performance over time.

The  joint commission standards represent the optimum achievable levels of quality and safety. Organizations achieve and maintain accreditation or certification by demonstrating their compliance with these standards. Accreditation and certification are considered the gold standard by the federal government, state agencies, insurers, purchasers, consumers and other accrediting organizations.

In July 2002, the Joint Commission announced its first-ever annual National Patient Safety Goals. These goals and their associated requirements focus on safe practices that healthcare organizations must implement and maintain. Compliance with these goals and requirements is reviewed during the on-site survey at accredited healthcare organizations such as Sparrow Health System.

Sparrow developed its Keeping Patients Safe initiative to help meet the National Patient Safety Goals. Through that initiative, we make a promise to every patient who enters the healthcare system. That promise includes several simple actions our staff can take to ensure patients receive the best possible care during their hospital stay or office visit.

Sparrow promises to:

  Think of patient safety first.

  Listen to patients and answer their questions.

  Identify patients by name and date of birth to avoid patient mix-ups.

  Wash our hands before and after we care for patients.

  Talk with patients and make a list of medicines they take at home to avoid medication problems.

  Take a time-out before major procedures to make sure we have everything right before we begin.

Providing appropriate treatment hinges on keeping the lines of communication open between patients and caregivers. Equally important, however, is improving communication between doctors, nurses and other caregivers in the hospital setting. Vital information must be portable, moving with the patient from one care setting to another.

Studies show that the average nurse focuses on a different patient every six minutes, giving new meaning to the word multitasking. That’s why Sparrow is dedicated to standardizing the way in which doctors, nurses and technicians share information about medication, testing and treatment.

As a result, nurses in the Sparrow labor and delivery and OB special care departments recently said goodbye to eyestrain and writer’s cramp and hello to the keypad and computer screen, becoming the first hospital units to adopt electronic clinical charting. Outside the hospital, Sparrow Home Care also uses electronic charting.

Gone are the old, bulky binders passed back and forth between a patient’s caregivers. Taking their place are bright new computer screens and keyboards installed at each patient’s bedside, with additional ports at the nursing station. Each computer screen allows the viewer to chart patient vital signs, medications, diagnostic test results and all the other myriad information that goes into a patient chart. The computer screens on these two units also monitor, at a glance, the fetal heartbeats of every patient.

A patient’s complete medical history can be viewed with a few clicks of the computer mouse by authorized caregivers, providing immediate, easy access to patient information. All documentation from a patient’s hospital visits is easily available to the caregiver because the information is in a single, shared electronic medical record.

Communication between doctors has been improved with the click of a mouse as well through Sparrow’s new Integrated Regional Health Information System (IRHIS).

IRHIS allows multiple providers to work with the same patient data simultaneously. For patients, this means improved safety and quality of care. For the clinicians, it means less time searching for patient information and more time for what really matters. IRHIS features improved safety, security and quality of patient care. Both Sparrow and its patients will benefit from lower costs due to better, faster clinical decision making, more standardized treatment protocols, and a shortened hospital stay.

Sparrow’s pharmacy robot reflects yet another way we are using technology to enhance patient safety.

ROBOT-Rxä is more than a computer-guided mechanical arm. The robot’s glass workstation is loaded with 320 medications commonly used at Sparrow Hospital. Each drug is sealed in a plastic bag, and every bag is stamped with the name of the medication and a highly visible bar code. The robot identifies each patient medication by its National Drug Code number, reducing the chance of medication errors.

Sparrow regularly participates in national studies and projects that enhance services and programs while improving patient safety.

Sparrow Health System recently was recognized as one of more than 70 Michigan hospitals and 127 state ICUs to participate in Keystone: ICU, a two-year project to reduce medical errors and improve patient safety directed by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHA) and the Johns Hopkins University Quality & Safety Research Group. It’s the largest patient safety collaborative of its kind anywhere in the world.

As the region’s Level 1 Trauma Center, Sparrow provides the most comprehensive critical care services in mid-Michigan, housing designated intensive care units for stroke, neurological, pediatric, neonatal and cardiac patients. By partnering with experts like the Michigan Hospital Association and the Johns Hopkins Center for Patient Safety, we can keep Michigan at the forefront of quality and improvement in ICU medicine.

All these policies, standards and initiatives have helped shape the delivery of health care at Sparrow as well as improve the quality and safety of the care we provide to the people of mid-Michigan. Together, they represent a systems-oriented approach to providing safe, high quality care that will initiate dramatic and positive changes in the practice and delivery of health care at Sparrow.

To review the National Patient Safety Goals and related patient safety information, visit the joint commission website, To learn more about Sparrow Health System services, check our website at

Gary McMillan is the Patient Safety Officer for Sparrow Health System.








Advicoach Business Spotlight

Follow Us