Standardization as a mechanism to improve safety in health care

Jt Comm J Qual Saf. 2004 Jan;30(1):5-14. doi: 10.1016/s1549-3741(04)30001-8.


Background: A growing body of literature shows that when patterns of care are widely divergent, clinical outcomes suffer and, as a result, safety may be compromised. A multispecialty group at Luther Midelfort, Mayo Health System (LM, MHS) initiated efforts to reduce variance in the clinical practice patterns of providers. The pilot initiative, which entailed standardization of a sliding-scale insulin protocol, served as a template throughout the LM, MHS for reducing variance and enhancing safety.

Standardizing insulin administration: A single sliding-scale insulin protocol for regular insulin use in appropriate patients was intended to decrease the number of hypoglycemic events. A six-week comparison revealed that in the protocol-driven standardized sliding-scale insulin group, two episodes of hypoglycemia occurred in 134 dosages administered versus 20 hypoglycemic events in 519 dosages administered in the traditional group (1.49 versus 3.85%, p < .04). Subsequent 30-month data months revealed a reduction in hypoglycemic episodes from 2.95% to 1.1%.

Medication use problem: A reconciliation of medications initiative focused on clarifying, correcting, and specifying the medications patients were consuming at different intervals of their hospitalization and then amending the data in the medical record. In a seven-month chart audit, errors per 100 admissions decreased from 213 to fewer than 50 errors.

Discussion: Standardization efforts to increase uniformity of practice are worth considering in other practice areas to increase safety and possibly reduce costs.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Clinical Protocols*
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / standards
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Hospitals, Community / standards
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / epidemiology
  • Hypoglycemia / prevention & control*
  • Insulin / administration & dosage*
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Medication Systems, Hospital / standards*
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Phlebotomy / standards
  • Pilot Projects
  • Point-of-Care Systems
  • Safety Management / methods*
  • Sentinel Surveillance
  • Wisconsin


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin