Protecting patients: Eliminating hazards in hospitals

According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., and according to the National Institutes of Health, ranks third for those between the ages of 15 and 24. More people commit suicide than die in car accidents, war, murder, or natural disasters.

Along with better counseling and support to address the myriad of mental health issues associated with suicide, many hospitals and other healthcare institutions have started to implement safety measures and devices specifically designed to address suicide prevention. It is critical to remove the opportunity for a patient to harm himself if care is going to be safe and effective. Considering that death by self-asphyxiation—the most common method of suicide in psychiatric hospitals—can occur in as little as four minutes, 15-minute checks alone are clearly insufficient for any organization serious about protecting its patients.

Bellevue, Coney Island, and Jacobi hospitals in New York, the Denver V.A. Hospital in Colorado, and the Santa Clara Medical Center in California have all installed NAPCO Security Technologies' LifeSaver™ anti-ligature doorknobs, designed to restrict the attachment of lines and laces. Another product from NAPCO, a public company which has been on the forefront of developing healthcare safety products for more than 20 years, includes LifeSaver ligature resistant door hardware which has been installed in hospitals nationwide.

Other products include Behavior Safety Products' line of showerheads, which are ligature resistant without compromising functionality. Brey-Krause produces a line of washroom safety products, such as their ligature resistant grab bars, which are built with a closure plate to prevent anything from being tied around the bars.

Beyond the obvious humane and ethical arguments for improved safety features in hospital facilities, administrators have also come to realize that most courts believe that hospitals have a greater responsibility to prevent inpatient suicide. Additionally, dealing with patient suicide can be extremely challenging for staff, emotionally. A recent study showed that psychiatric nurses encounter a patient suicide once every two and a half years, on average. Many of these facts were highlighted in recent article by Dr. James L. Knoll IV, Editor in Chief Emeritus of Psychiatric Times, who argued that hospitals must "ensure a safe physical environment that is devoid of means to commit suicide."

Healthcare facilities concerned with at-risk patients understand how much a patient's immediate environment contributes to his continued safety and prospects for improvement. Eliminating potential hazards is a constant challenge, but there are a number of products currently on the market that can help alleviate some of the most common threats.

Richard Soloway, CEO of NAPCO Security Technologies, Inc. one of the world's leading solutions providers and manufacturers of high-technology electronic security, connected home, video, fire alarm, access control and door locking systems. 

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