Brief Reports

Improving Respiratory Rate Accuracy in the Hospital: A Quality Improvement Initiative


Respiratory rate (RR) is a predictor of adverse outcomes. However, RRs are inaccurately measured in the hospital. We conducted a quality improvement (QI) initiative using plan-do-study-act methodology on one inpatient unit of a safety-net hospital to improve RR accuracy. We added time-keeping devices to vital sign carts and retrained patient-care assistants on a newly modified workflow that included concomitant RR measurement during automated blood pressure measurement. The median RR was 18 (interquartile range [IQR] 18-20) preintervention versus 14 (IQR 15-20) postintervention. RR accuracy, defined as ±2 breaths of gold-standard measurements, increased from 36% preintervention to 58% postintervention (P < .01). The median time for vital signs decreased from 2:36 minutes (IQR, 2:04-3:20) to 1:55 minutes (IQR, 1:40-2:22; P < .01). The intervention was associated with a 7.8% reduced incidence of tachypnea-specific systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS = 2 points with RR > 20; 95% CI, –13.5% to –2.2%). Our interdisciplinary, low-cost, low-tech QI initiative improved the accuracy and efficiency of RR measurement.

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