Healthcare delivery is more efficient today thanks to modern technological advancements and digital records sharing. Alarmingly — even with state-of-the-art technology and enhanced safety protocols — research suggests as many as 400,000 patients die each year due to medical errors, costing the nation approximately $1 trillion annually when you factor in the quality-adjusted life years cost associated with those deaths.
Some day, biomedical technology — using iris scans or fingerprinting to track patients and document their care — may eliminate deaths directly correlated to preventable adverse drug events or transfusing with mismatched blood types. However, in the interim, more can be done to prevent some of the 10,000 serious complications, and more than 1,000 deaths, that occur every day due to medical errors.
“[Health IT] potential is not going to be realized unless those tools are really focused on improving patient safety. The tools themselves won’t automatically do it,” says
Ashish K. Jha, MD, professor of health policy and management at Harvard School of Public Health.
It is almost incomprehensible that thousands continue to die each day due to mistakes related to poor-quality wristbands used in hospitals and surgical clinics, when technology exists to mitigate risks. Prior to bar coding and scanning technology, medical staff hand wrote patient wristbands, opening the door for errors associated with eligible or incomplete information. Printing high-quality, color-coded scannable wristbands removes these human errors and enables more accurate data collection at the bedside.
Improving Bedside Accuracy and Efficiency With Automation
Customizable wristbands and automated data verification can improve accuracy and quality of care. When used in conjunction with an overarching safety protocol, implementing a digital wristband system reduces duplicate data entry by medical staff that curbs cost of care while saving time. Bar-coded patient ID wristbands are an integral part of healthcare delivery. Solutions can be adapted to accommodate all patient encounter environments — from tracking specimen collection to dispensing pharmaceuticals and blood products.
Tracking and Verifying Patient Care
Fully integrated systems allow patient demographic data collected at registration that is immediately available to care delivery teams via printed wristbands. As part of an organization-wide bar-coded medication administration (BCMA) protocol, these customizable patient ID wristbands ensure the proper medication and the correct dose reach the correct individual at the right time with a series of checks and balances, starting with registration and continuing throughout the care delivery stream.
Since identification solutions are the foundational element in the care delivery chain, hospitals must ensure that every wristband is durable enough to withstand the rigors of daily use in a medical environment, and that scanners and readers are fully compatible with existing computer systems. Broken, damaged or unreadable codes negate the benefits for patients and care providers, according to the Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality (AHRQ).
Flexibility to Customized Patient Services
Reducing medication errors is not the only benefit of implementing a bar-coding policy within the hospital environment. Leveraging portable data collection terminals, scanners and patient wristbands can help improve safety for transfusion individuals.
Prior to initiating a transfusion, the caregiver scans the patient ID to verify this is the intended recipient. If the data matches the blood bar code, the transfusion can begin. Additional software functionality may include tracking and reporting patient vital signs and other patient responses directly within the digital record system.
It is shocking that medical errors are still the third leading cause of death in our modern world. While innovative solutions to expedite care delivery and improve patient outcomes continue to emerge, today hospital administrators have options to reduce medical errors associated with patient data collection and sharing. Implementing a bar-coding system for identifying and tracking patient encounter is a good place to start.