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What are the key challenges with patient ID technology?

Posted by Zebra EMEA

April 7, 2016 at 1:00 AM


Accurate patient identification is crucial to delivering an acceptable standard of patient care. It ensures your patients, staff and hospital are protected, while also helping processes to run smoothly and efficiently. There are a wide variety of patient ID methods available to hospitals and we were curious to find out which of these methods hospitals are currently using, and what they plan to use in the future.

The results of our survey revealed that hospitals are using a multitude of different approaches, from handwritten wristbands to photographs on file, and in most cases each hospital is using more than one method. This is potentially problematic, as it implies hospitals do not have a consistent approach to patient ID and this could be resulting in inefficient practices and inaccurate data collection and retrieval.

Despite the technology available to hospitals today, 78% of respondents said they were still using handwritten wristbands. While this method is familiar to hospital staff, it is also error-prone and inefficient compared to other methods. Surprisingly, the second most popular method, with 70% of respondents using it, was printed wristbands with barcodes. In contrast to handwritten wristbands, this method is far more accurate, less time-consuming and allows more detail to be stored on the wristband via the barcode.

While initially the results seem positive that a high proportion of hospitals are using printed wristbands with barcodes, the benefits of using this method are undermined if the same hospital is also using handwritten wristbands. The use of technology solutions such as printed wristbands and barcoding allows for data to be recorded and collected from a central location in real-time. It also means that, provided the original record is correct, there is no risk of misidentification. However, if a hospital is using printed wristbands some of the time, and the rest of the time is using written wristbands, there is no guarantee of accuracy. The wristband could be read incorrectly, the writing could have faded or could have been illegible in the first place.

In order to fully benefit from the advantages new technologies can offer, hospitals need to adopt an overriding policy for identifying patients. Hospitals should analyse which patient ID method would work best for their staff and patients and then roll this out across their entire organisation, in all departments, whether clinical or non-clinical.

The question we then ask ourselves is, if there are more efficient methods of identifying patients, why are hospitals not seizing the opportunity to use them?

We asked survey respondents to rate the challenges they saw as barriers to implementing effective ID technology on a scale of 1-8. The results showed four barriers and top of the list was the potential costs. There is, of course, an investment required at the start when hospitals are adopting new technologies, but it is important to balance these costs against the long-term efficiency gains they will result deliver, the reduction in errors and the improvement in patient care.

Respondents were also concerned about technology integration, staff resistance and data entry errors. Clearly, hospitals are worried about a number of issues they believe are associated with new ID technology. Yet these are all issues that can be overcome, whether it’s by selecting a reliable technology partner to ensure your integration goes smoothly or by educating staff on the ways in which the technology will actually make their lives easier.

Healthcare_IDG_Report_Thumbnail.jpgIn our research report we explore these issues in more detail, offering our expert advice and guidance on how hospitals can embrace ID technology to deliver tangible benefits. Click the button below to download your free copy today.

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Topics: Healthcare, EMEA, Patient Identification