Have you ever sat bedside in a hospital – perhaps with a child or a parent – and noted a change in their condition? Perhaps it was indefinable. They just didn’t look right. And you didn’t know what to do. The nurses on the unit were tied up with a patient down the hallway, and besides, the nurse had taken some vitals and said everything was fine. But something wasn’t right.

The Outer Banks Hospital has implemented Condition H – for Condition Help – when patients or their family members feel that the patient is not receiving adequate medical attention or have unresolved questions. Modeled on the hospital’s Rapid Response Team, families may call the switchboard from a hospital phone and request immediate help. A team of medical professionals will go to the room to assess the situation.

“Although our clinical providers do an outstanding job of caring for our patients, we want to create a process that empowers the family and includes them as a important member of our ‘care team,’” said Van Smith, hospital president. “Adopting Condition H does not mean that we have lapses in our care, but rather the opposite. It means we want to learn from the mistakes of others to continually elevate our quality and service to our patients.”

Condition H grew from a tragic incident with Sorrel King’s 18-month old daughter, Josie, who died at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in March 2001 from a combination of medical errors, most of which could have been avoided with better communication. “When I talk with other families who’ve been through this, they all say the same thing: They didn’t listen to me,” said Mrs. King. With the launch of Condition H, The Outer Banks Hospital is continuing to develop safeguards which will prevent breakdowns in care.

In June of 2005, The Outer Banks Hospital was the first hospital in the University Health System to form their Rapid Response Team. OBH again has taken the lead in being the first hospital in the system to institute Condition H. “When families are unsure why or how care is being given and they feel they aren’t getting anyone’s attention, they can call a Condition H,” said Bernice Jardel, RN, Director of the Medical/Surgical Unit. “Sometimes communication breaks down. We want to solve problems, not create them.”

Condition H will bring a team of professionals to the bedside to discuss the patient’s care. “By giving the patient and his family a ‘hot line’ to immediate help, we are providing them more than a resource,” added Jardel. “We are partnering with them in a very real way, we are engaging them, we’re saying that we’re all equal members of the team. Together, through enhanced communication, we’re all working toward the same goal, which is safe patient outcomes.”