Lost and Not Found: Common Items that Disrupt a Patient’s Hospital Stay

Hearing aids. Dentures. Eyeglasses. Wallets. Cell Phones. These are a few of the many items reported to the CHPSO database that have been misplaced, thrown out, or disappeared during a patient’s visit. Patients cannot live without these items as they help them hear the latest news on TV, eat their meal, see the news and their meal, and communicate with others. In one case, a patient had to go on a liquid diet and eat soft foods because his dentures were misplaced. Often times, these items get rolled up into a napkin and inadvertently thrown out while on a meal tray or at the bedside. Although patients are usually responsible for their belongings, there are a couple of ways in which a hospital can ensure their patients are getting the most of their experience:

  1. Have patients label all their electronic devices, clothes, and accessories.
  2. Review the patients’ inventory list and share it with the patient to make sure it is accurate.
  3. Ask patients’ family members to hold onto their loved ones’ belongings or remind patients leave their valuables at home during any pre-op visits.
    1. In many cases, lost items were of high value, such as cash, mobile phones, tablets, and jewelry.
    2. Some hospitals indicated the value of these items. Hearing aids and dentures are around $2,000. The time to have these items replaced can be weeks.
  4. It is useful to have compartments for each item: glasses, dentures, and hearing aids should be placed in their own labeled, individual cases and not wrapped up in a paper towel.
  5. If a patient is intubated, dentures can be placed in a labeled container.
  6. A patient can hang a sturdy bag on the footboard or headboard to contain their belongings.

If items are found, procedures adopted from the airline industry can be helpful for tracking. Place the found item in a plastic bag and indicate when the item was found, where it was found (unit and room number), and a short description of the item. That way, the bagged items can be easily found by date and the patient can be reunited with their belonging.