Proactive new safeguard for hospital patients

Code Help program adds another layer of safety

Code Help poster
The Code Help program is a proactive effort to empower patients and prevent serious problems before they occur. The program is one of UC Davis Medical Center's many safety tools.

UC Davis Medical Center is empowering its patients with a voluntary new safety initiative that summons a special team of care providers in the case of an emergency or misunderstanding.

The hospital’s new Code Help telephone hotline provides inpatients and family members with immediate assistance on the rare occasions when they believe they are not receiving adequate medical attention. Calling the hotline signals the need for special hospital staff to respond, assess the situation and act as needed.

The pilot program is one of many tools the medical center uses to ensure safe, high-quality care for patients, and is a proactive effort designed to prevent serious problems before they occur.

"This program is a safety net for patients as UC Davis Medical Center strives to make hospitals safer," said Toby Marsh, nurse manager for the medical-surgical intensive care unit and the ENT-Internal Medicine Unit and a member of the team that formed Code Help. "In many cases, it is the family who knows the patient better than we do."

How it works

Patients may access Code Help by dialing 3-2200 from any hospital telephone. The operator will ask for caller identification, room number and the patient's name. The operator will immediately activate a "Code Help," alerting a rapid-response team that will go to the patient's bedside and make an assessment. Additional support will be called as needed.

The system is designed for:

  • Situations where a patient or family member feels they are experiencing difficulty securing the attention of patient-care staff for a medical issue

  • Communication breakdowns or misunderstandings

  • Suspected errors, or

  • Similar urgent medical-related issues.

Patients are encouraged to ask to speak to their primary nurse, attending physician or the nurse manager on duty before calling Code Help.

National Patient Safety Goals

Few settings are as fast-paced and dynamic as a modern hospital. Patient-care staff constantly adjust their priorities to match the volume of patients and the severity of their conditions. These adjustments often take place amidst intense activity and emotion.

"This program is a safety net for patients as UC Davis Medical Center strives to make hospitals safer." 
— Toby Marsh, nurse manager

Code Help supports specific National Patient Safety Goals set by The Joint Commission, an independent not-for-profit organization that accredits UC Davis Medical Center and other hospitals for quality and safety.

The National Patient Safety Goals encourage patients’ active involvement in their own care, and challenge hospital staff to improve their recognition and response to changes in a patient’s condition. The goals also urge hospitals to encourage patients and family members to seek assistance when the patient's condition worsens.

UC Davis nurse practitioner Bonnie McCracken, nurse manager Marci Hoze and administrative and billing officer Leslie Moore worked with Marsh to develop Code Help. The pilot program will initially begin in four hospital units — ENT/Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Pediatric Intensive Care and Vascular/GI surgery — and will then be evaluated.