When Every Second Counts

Each passing moment can mean the difference between life and death. A “Code Blue” is an urgent call for medical assistance when a patient experiences a cardiac arrest. Such patients can develop symptoms that warn of the impending cardiac arrest up to eight hours in advance of the actual event, but these subtle changes in vital signs may go undetected.

HEWS project - RACE team - Dr. Alison Fox-Robichaud - web size-5Inspired to build upon existing early-warning systems for patient care, Dr. Alison Fox-Robichaud initiated the development of an innovative new system for use at Hamilton Health Sciences. Dr. Fox-Robichaud and the Intensive Care Unit Emergency Services team at Hamilton General Hospital partnered with IBM to reduce the incidence of Code Blues, potentially saving more lives. This partnership resulted in the creation of the Hamilton Early Warning Score (HEWS), a risk-assessment tool that helps clinicians recognize these changes in vital signs so patients can receive appropriate care as early as possible.

“HEWS impacts the patient experience by assuring a safer journey through a hospital stay,” says Dr. Fox-Robichaud. “It reduces the chances of missing clinical deterioration and it reduces unplanned admissions to the Intensive Care Unit.”

With HEWS, clinicians assess patients’ heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and level of consciousness. After nursing staff enter this information into the system, a score is generated and instructions for further treatment are provided onscreen as required.

Since the implementation of the system at both The General and Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre, Hamilton Health Sciences has seen a decrease in the number of inpatient Code Blues.