By Bill Tricarico
Sr. Risk Management Consultant
McNeil & Company
The scenario is all too familiar. One of your wheelchair vans is cut off by another vehicle or a child runs out into the road. The driver brakes hard and then hears a noise. Your patient has fallen from their wheelchair and injuries could range from minor to catastrophic. Your driver may be a long term trusted employee or a new hire but either way, they swear that they strapped the person and wheelchair properly. Besides the most important issue, the injury, do you know what else is in store for your company? Potentially there is poor publicity, internal strife, re-training sessions and of course the very real possibility of a costly law-suit.
In the EMS field documentation is extremely important. Whether it is the administration of drugs, timeliness of service, vital signs, or any other aspect of patient care, it is documented and reports are safeguarded just in case an issue develops at a later date. Yet in a business where documentation is so vital, many times it is neglected in the day to day operation of the wheelchair vans.
Studies indicate that unrestrained passengers are becoming a major issue in the EMS field and this vital area needs to be addressed. One means to accomplish this is a quick and simple check off form which is signed by both the attendant and the patient.
The form should address the date and time of the pick-up, any defects noted on the wheelchair, the fact that all straps have been properly connected and any unusual items which may be noted by the attendant. It may be signed by the attendant as well as the client or their caregiver.
This form serves a number of purposes. Obviously you now have a written record of patient care similar to other report forms. In addition, you have written confirmation that the actions were actually completed. The check off form is a reminder to your employee making the procedure more than just a mechanical duty which could be forgotten under the stress of a tight schedule or complacency during daily routines. It also makes the patient more aware of the fact that they’ve signed a document and should not attempt to unbuckle during the transport.
The form should be quick and easy to complete, yet cover important items. It may be a separate form or incorporated into others you may use. Check with your insurance company for assistance in developing the document or to see if they already have a sample.
Dashboard reminder stickers for your employee and signs in the rear of the vehicle advising patients to call any missing buckles to the driver’s attention before the vehicle is moved will also assist in reducing incidents. Again, your insurance company may be a good source for assistance here.
In an industry which is so reliant on documentation, don’t let the wheelchair vans be your company’s Achilles heel. Protect your clients, your employees, and the reputation and well-being of your company with a simple form.