Saturday, September 02, 2006

Patient identification a key to safety

National Patient Safety Goal #1 is Improving the accuracy of patient identification.

Peter Shea, MD, Medical Director at Backus Hospital, said it is important to not just go through the motions while performing these seemingly routine checks. That is how mistakes can happen, some of which have received very negative national attention and compromised patient safety.

At Backus, strategies to properly identify patients include:

* Use at least two patient identifiers (never the patients room number) whenever taking blood samples or administrating medications or blood products, including the patient's name and either medical record number or birth date.
* Medical personnel ask patients to state their name and then check that against their identification bracelet.

Here are a couple of scenarios in which these strategies are applied:

  • An outpatient comes in for blood tests. Just before drawing blood, the lab tech should ask the patient "What is your name?" It is not sufficient to ask, "Are you Mrs. Smith?" Then ask the patient his or her date of birth, and confirm both the name and date of birth before drawing blood.

  • When dealing with a patient in the Critical Care Unit who can't interact because of his or her condition, always confirm the patient's name against the arm band before medication is administered. You must also confirm either the patient's medical record or date of birth with the arm band.

  • The same policies apply for any inpatient or outpatient scenario, whether it is in a health center, X-ray, physical therapy, etc.

"Staff should be using two patient identifiers in any of these settings," Dr. Shea said.

Anyone with questions about the National Patient Safety Goals, or suggestions to help Backus improve patient safety, can call Mary Bylone, RN, Assistant Vice President of Patient Care Services and Patient Safety Officer, at 860-889-8331 ext. 2771 or Joe Hughes, Director of Quality Improvement, at 860-889-8331 ext. 2345.

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