A card game helped this hospital improve patient safety in 10 minutes a day

Clinical and nonclinical staff at the Rotterdam Eye Hospital in the Netherlands use a special deck of cards for 10 minutes a day to improve patient safety and boost staff morale, according to an article published in Harvard Business Review.

To encourage staff members to work together and reinforce their knowledge of key safety and patient care principles, hospital managers created a patient safety card game.

At the beginning of each shift, hospital team members gather for a brief huddle where employees rate their own mood as green (I'm good), orange (I'm okay but I have a few things I'm concerned about) or red (I'm under stress).

The team leader then asks if there is anything the team should know to work more effectively together that shift, such as a delay in public transport that could make patients late for appointments or a patient with a special need coming in.

The leader asks two staff members to draw a card before the meeting ends. Cards either test the team member's knowledge or require him or her to observe something during the shift and report the findings at the next meeting.

The knowledge cards, which are changed every month, review patient care policies. Knowledge tests can include listing the five steps in hand hygiene or stating the most common errors during medication preparation. Observation assignments include watching colleagues and reporting back on how well they follow hand-hygiene procedures.

Although the routine seems simple, Rotterdam Eye Hospital has seen several improvements in service quality since it launched the card game in 2015. The hospital's patient safety audit performance has improved, and caregiver job satisfaction has increased significantly. Playing the game has also encouraged team members to get to know each other better.

Several other hospitals and long-term care organizations in the Netherlands also use the card game now. In 2016 and 2017, a nursing home and a rehabilitation center near Rotterdam adopted the huddle and card game and have seen similar patient care and staff morale improvements.

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