THA endorses voluntary adoption of plain-language emergency codes - Ted Shaw Blog
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THA endorses voluntary adoption of plain-language emergency codes

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Anyone who has ever been in a hospital has had the experience of hearing over the public address system the cryptic words, “Code Pink” or “Code Black” or, more commonly, “Code Blue.” These color-based alert codes are intended to notify hospital staff and physicians and sometimes the public to an emergency of some kind.

However, color-based alert codes typically are unique to each hospital and lack standardization across facilities. When an emergency occurs and time is of the essence, this variation can create confusion and delay or uncertainty in response.

After extensive research and vetting by THA-member hospitals, THA has developed a list of standardized, plain-language emergency codes to replace the color-based codes. Endorsed by the THA Board of Trustees, the standardized emergency code project encourages all Texas hospitals and health systems to use plain-language alerts in the event of an emergency in lieu of hospital-specific color codes. The codes are constructed purposefully to allow hospitals to personalize the information to their facilities and provide site-specific details.

The intent of using plain-language codes is to:

  • Promote the safety of patients, visitors, physicians and hospital staff;
  • Reduce errors;
  • Increase transparency of communications and safety protocols;
  • Align with national safety recommendations; and
  • Reduce confusion for staff or physicians who work in more than one facility.

The initiative is completely voluntary, but THA hopes that every Texas hospital adopts all of the standardized, plain-language codes as part of the industry’s work to improve and provide higher quality, safer care.

Complete project resources are available on

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