Conemaugh Health System Makes Switch to Plain Language Codes

July 1, 2019

The hospitals of Conemaugh Health System are pleased to announce participation in a nationwide effort to standardize health care emergency codes. Conemaugh Memorial, Conemaugh Meyersdale, Conemaugh Miners, and Conemaugh Nason Medical Centers will switch to standardized Plain Language Codes effective July 1, 2019. 

The common and frequent use of emergency codes by hospitals to communicate during life-threatening emergencies routinely segregates hospital staff from patients, visitors, and first-responders during emergencies by providing each group with a different level of information regarding the threat.  The use of standardized codes will increase transparency and promote the safety of patients, hospital employees, and visitors.

Currently, Pennsylvania does not have a statewide standardized emergency codes system, according to Thomas L. Grace, RN, PhD, Principal Consultant, Emergency Preparedness, of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP). However, Grace said HAP's emergency preparedness staff has encouraged facilities to consider use of plain language announcement in place of codes.

Over 25 hospital associations have recommended standardized codes and definitions for healthcare facilities in their states. In addition, there is a national trend toward standardizing hospital emergency notification codes as recommended by the Joint Commission.  There is also growing support for the use of plain language codes from the following organizations:  U.S. Department of Human Services, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, The National Incident Management System (NIMS) and The Institute of Medicine. 

In order to minimize the risk of confusion and possible adverse patient outcomes, Conemaugh Health System will follow state and national recommendations and adopt the use of plain language for all emergency notification codes. 

To view the list of plain language codes, visit www.conemaugh.org/CodeSystem.