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A Cognitive Aid for Cardiac Arrest: You Can't Use It if You Don't Know About It

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Background: A cognitive aid developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and distributed to all VA facilities provides caregivers with information to minimize omission of critical steps when diagnosing and treating cardiac arrest. In 2002, caregivers were surveyed about the usefulness of the cognitive aid and the success of its dissemination throughout the VA.

Methods: Fifty randomly selected VA hospitals were sent a letter to alert them of the upcoming survey. Twenty surveys were sent to each of the selected hospitals with instructions to distribute the survey to specific caregiver types.

Results: Nine (18%) of the VA hospitals had not used the cognitive aid tool because of dissemination problems. Of the 565 caregivers responding to the survey, 59% (332) were aware of the cognitive aid. Of these 332, 96% agreed that putting the cognitive aid on code carts is a good idea. There were 234 respondents who were both aware of the cognitive aid and had been involved in at least one code within the past 30 days. Of these 234, some 29 (12%) used the aid during a code, 28 of whom agreed that the cognitive aid was helpful during the code.

Discussion: Both new and experienced caregivers find the cognitive aid helpful when responding to "code" situations. However, cognitive aids cannot be helpful if the intended users are unaware of their availability. Dissemination and awareness of the aids can be problematic in large health care systems.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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