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The Visible Value Blog

Barcoded Wristbands: Visibility Into Patient Safety

Posted by Zebra N. America

September 27, 2016 at 1:00 PM


The use of wristbands to identify hospital patients has been a standard practice for well over half a century. Handwritten, typed or printed, wristbands were originally created to provide an easy way for caregivers to verify identity at any point along the patient’s healthcare journey. From newborns in the delivery area to geriatric patients in rehabilitation, everyone got a wristband.

And that’s how things worked until the introduction of barcode technology, which allowed the humble hospital wristband to become a “virtual voice” for patients and play a much more important role in overall patient safety. 

Closing the Loop

By putting barcodes on hospital wristbands, healthcare facilities can leverage a host of connected technologies to improve safety and quality of care. It’s also the most effective way to comply with the National Patient Safety Goal (NPSG) to “Improve the accuracy of patient identification,” which the Joint Commission has included in its annual goals since 2003.

Barcode-based ID systems not only allow caregivers to identify patients and document treatments, they can also facilitate numerous other identification, tracking and data collection activities that require accurate data entry, such as electronic medication administration records (eMAR), computerized physician order entry (CPOE) and barcode point-of-care (BPOC).

Identifying Needs, Improving Outcomes

Nowhere is the need for positive patient identification greater than at the point of care. With staffing shortages and more demands placed on healthcare workers at every level, the opportunity for error can only increase.

  • Medication administration: A 2006 study released by the Institute of Medicine states that medication errors affect 1.5 million patients each year, generating approximately $3.5 billion in extra costs.
  • Blood administration: According to the FDA, bedside or labeling mistakes contribute to nearly 80% of blood transfusion errors in the U.S.
  • Specimen collection: Studies report that 160,900 adverse events occur in U.S. hospitals annually due to specimen identification errors.

Barcoded wristbands can seamlessly connect each of these activities to a patient’s electronic record, providing instant verification before any action is taken. The FDA’s own research concluded that increased use of barcode-based bedside medication administration systems would prevent 50,000 adverse drug events and blood transfusions over a 20-year period, keeping an estimated $93 billion in treatment costs out of the healthcare system.

Our newest white paper explores how barcoded wristbands can play a key role in improving patient safety and care throughout a healthcare facility.

Download “Barcoded Patient ID Wristbands—The Foundation for Closed-Loop Applications and Processes” today to learn more!

Topics: Healthcare, Barcodes, North America, Patient Identification