Stop Speaking in Code - Ted Shaw Blog
Ted Shaw Blog

Stop Speaking in Code

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As an industry, we stand for transparency and clear communication. Medical care is complex. Health care financing is complex. Hospital operations is complex. So much of what we communicate on a daily basis – whether to patients, hospital staff, lawmakers, media or the public -- is an effort to make all of it less complex so that our work is understandable and accessible.

We can’t make everything simple, however. A physician can only do so much to describe a complex heart procedure in simple terms without sacrificing depth of knowledge and detail. Similarly, a hospital CFO can only do so much to describe supplemental payments in layperson terms.

However, there is one area where every hospital can immediately make a difference in promoting clearer, less confusing communication. Switch from using facility-specific color codes to communicate an emergency to using standardized plain language alerts that anyone can understand. For example, instead of announcing “Code Pink” for a missing person alert, a hospital could instead announce “Security Alert. Missing female child, age 2. Last seen 1st floor lobby.” Hospitals could choose to add additional information as warranted, such as instructions on contacting hospital security. 

The intent of using plain language alerts 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.
  • 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 alerts 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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