Friday, March 29, 2013

Patient safety lessons from Starbuck's

Anyone who knows me, would agree that saying I like coffee is an understatement. In fact, coffee is truly one of my life's pleasures. Right up there with anything chocolate and the beach. A good cup-a-joe, anytime of the day - hot or iced, frappuccino or espresso, I'm guaranteed to love it.

So what does my love of coffee, Starbuck's and healthcare have in common? Probably very little at first glance; besides the fact that coffee is the fuel of healthcare providers and clinicians everywhere...we may be able to learn something from the highly rated java-giants.

A typical shift day for me begins with a trip to the local Starbuck's for my usual special latte for one last jolt of caffeine to get through my unpredictable day. No matter what time I visit, I am always greeted by a friendly voice in the drive-thru that identifies themselves first and says something like "Good morning or welcome, my name is so-and-so, how may I help you today?" WOW! It always impresses me...really. Every day. All the time. No matter the person taking my order. I respond the same...."Good Morning! (It's contagious you know) I'll have...I won't bore you with my special coffee needs" And here's the best part...wait for it.....the friendly barista READs BACK & VERIFIES my ORDER! (RBVO) Ta-Da! Yes, they verify what they heard you say. Amazing. And if it is wrong they correct it on the spot and you get the wrong drink in addition to the corrected order. Now granted, no one is going to die or be injured with the wrong coffee-drink, but that is not the point.

In our clinical practice settings we give and receive orders or diagnostic results or other patient-related communication all the time and it is extremely easy to misinterpret or transcribe them incorrectly. The difference is, we can't take back the wrong treatment, medication or diagnostic result and it can most definitely harm the patient. I give telephones quite frequently and I am surprised at how many times they are not read back & verified. I often ask them to repeat the order back to me or I repeat it myself.

If Starbuck's thinks it is important enough to Read, Back & Verify your Order (RBVO) shouldn't it be important enough to us where the stakes are much higher? Incidentally, those of use that work in the acute care (hospital setting) know that CMS and The Joint Commission already think so...this was a National Patient Safety Goal for many years; it is now part of the Provision of Care Standards and yes a hospital can actually be penalized for not demonstrating evidence that a verbal or telephone order was RBV.

Startbuck's greets their customers with kindness and reads back their orders to maintain a high level of customer service and satisfaction, not because people will die. Clinicians and providers at every level should make reading back and verifying communications a natural part of their practice and a priority for patient safety.

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