When it comes to keeping tabs on recall alerts, everybody needs to be involved.

That was a key takeaway during a January 16 educational session at the annual symposium of the California Medical Instrumentation Association in San Diego. Kristina Cybularz, a member of the Alerts Tracker team at ECRI Institute, offered several tips in a session titled “Best Practices in Safety Alerts Management.” The issue placed tenth on ECRI’s list of the Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2015.

Challenges to effective alerts management include acknowledging alerts entering the hospital through multiple channels, getting alerts to the correct staff member, and matching safety notices to the facility’s existing inventory. Staff members may see the issue as a clerical task, which can impede their effectiveness, and the issue may lack support at the executive level. If the hospital has never experienced an adverse event related to equipment recalls, administrators and staff may have a false sense of security.

Implementing an effective system requires establishing policies and procedures with clear internal notification steps, defining measurable goals, and monitoring progress. The process needs to take into account not only a health system’s main facility, but teaching hospitals, departments with contracted staff, clinics, off-site surgery centers, and home care. Participants should maintain complete documentation for future visits by the Food and Drug Administration, such as the date the alert was received and actions taken by the hospital. Using a SharePoint drive can help manage that information across multiple departments.

Executive sponsorship is important to emphasize that alerts management is a critical patient safety initiative and a priority for the facility. To overcome institutional malaise, Cybularz suggested collecting data on safety alerts and demonstrating to reluctant administrators how additional support could have helped. Once administrative buy-in has been achieved, leaders should be updated regularly on how their support is helping avert errors. At multisite health systems, side-by-side comparison of alerts programs can help promote a friendly rivalry. Letting qualified staff show leadership through the alerts program can also help convert additional members into safety advocates who can then recruit others to the cause.