Piedmont Hospitals Replace Color-Based Emergency Codes with Plain Language Alerts

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Patients and visitors at any of Piedmont Healthcare’s hospitals will now hear plain language emergency announcements, a best practice recommended by 25 state hospital associations and several leading federal agencies, instead of codes with corresponding colors. The change in these alerts, which notify staff, patients and visitors of various emergency warnings or safety threats and which was implemented Sept. 1, is part of Piedmont’s continuing commitment to put patient safety at the forefront of its strategic focus.
As Piedmont Healthcare has grown from five to 11 hospitals over the past four years, entities that have joined the system have brought with them their own color-coded systems. As a result, a code at one hospital might hold a different meaning at another hospital. This system can lead to code confusion among providers who work at multiple facilities.
“We are committed to patient, staff, and visitor safety, and this ensures clear communication and increases safety on our campuses,” said Kevin Brown, president and CEO of Piedmont Healthcare. “By using standardized plain language alerts at all of our hospitals we can be sure that our staff and visitors understand the information being communicated without any further explanation.”
The use of plain language emergency alerts is recommended by federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
FEMA states that it is important that responders and incident managers use common terminology as the use of plain language in emergency response is a matter of public safety, especially the safety of those affected by the incident. As an example, formerly a “Code Red” would have indicated a fire. Under the new system, the alert will be “Facility Alert – Fire Alarm” followed by the location of the threat. One exception is that Code Blue, which indicates a medical emergency, will remain.
“As Piedmont Healthcare continues to grow, and hospital staff members may work in multiple facilities, the use of plain language emergency alerts ensures that each staff member knows what actions are required based on the information they have received,” said Eric Bour, M.D., CEO of Piedmont Newton Hospital, who is executive sponsor of the program. “I believe it also promotes transparency and that our patients and visitors have a right to know about emergency situations at the hospital and how we respond to them.”
Piedmont Healthcare is dedicated to strengthening a culture of safety within its hospitals. Seven of Piedmont’s 11 hospitals received “A” grades in The Leapfrog Group’s Spring 2019 Hospital Safety Grade, making it the safest healthcare system in Georgia with more A grades than any other healthcare system in the state.