On TV, everyone comes running when someone yells "code blue!" It's high drama as doctors and nurses work feverishly to save their patient.
In real life, Ohio's six children's hospitals say they have reduced such incidents of respiratory and heart arrests more than 20 percent by creating "rapid-response teams."

At a recent Statehouse news conference, the Ohio Children's Hospitals Association touted the results of its first joint effort to improve care in their institutions.

Republican legislative leaders applauded the effort, noting that the General Assembly consistently has protected children's hospitals from cuts in state aid despite a tight budget.

"This shows how important it is for us to continue to support children's hospitals in the capital and operating budgets," said Senate President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland.

Mary Duncan, a nurse at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said she recently became concerned when a month-old patient was having difficulty breathing. Alarmed by his blood results, she called the hospital's new rapid-response team.

A physician, respiratory specialist and nurse arrived in minutes. After a short assessment, they moved the baby to intensive care, where he was placed on a ventilator. In the past, Duncan said, she would have had to wait for the boy's doctor to be called, which generally takes more than a few minutes.

Dr. Uma Kotagal of Cincinnati Children's Hospital, who headed the hospitals' joint effort, said the goal was to reduce the number of instances when a child stops breathing or suffers cardiac arrest outside an intensive-care unit. The risk of death is much greater when it happens outside intensive care, she said.

The rapid-response teams, based on a model developed in Australia, operate 24 hours a day. Since they were started, episodes of cardiac and respiratory arrest have declined 22 percent, to 27 cases during 282,000 patient-days.