Nurses are always in demand for their time and attention to patient care. Resources are spread thin and multi-tasking is expected. With such challenging schedules and tasks that require a great deal of attention, healthcare staff is finding less and less time to manage everything. Fatigue and taxing schedules often lead to an increase in medical errors. Ultimately, these clinical and processing errors can lead to patient harm or even death. While technology cannot replace clinical skills or eradicate all medical errors, it can greatly eliminate errors related to patient misidentification, help streamline processes, reduce labor by enhancing workflow efficiencies, and increase patient safety.
Error Rates among Blood Transfusions
One area of the hospital exposed to error rates is blood transfusions. Therefore, it is important to make sure that when doing blood transfusions, the patient is receiving the right blood. According to the FDA, there is an average of 414 transfusion errors in the U.S. each year, or one per 38,000 transfusions1. Subsequently, one of the top National Patient Safety Goals for 2018 established by The Joint Commission is to eliminate transfusion errors related to patient identification.
Barcode Solutions for Minimizing Transfusion Errors
There are many checkpoints established to minimize transfusion errors. According to The Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goals for blood transfusions, before initiating a transfusion, the caregiver must match the blood or blood component to the order and match the patient to the blood or blood component. In addition, staff is required to use a two-person verification process or a one-person verification process accompanied by automated identification technology, such as barcoding. Using blood band barcode wristbands satisfies The Joint Commission’s requirements for a one-person verification. Barcode technology helps prevent misidentification caused by human error (e.g. illegible handwriting or smeared information) and provides greater workflow efficiency to allow caregivers more time for patient care.
Another process improvement we are observing is hospitals are starting to also use PDA systems (personal digital assistants) at the patient’s bedside, to reduce the risk of incompatible blood transfusion. The PDA system can match the blood bag to the patient right away, reducing chances of error. Nurses scan their badges so that they can identify the caregiver and link the blood bag to the patient. Accurate representation of all patient-related information is made available on the PDA immediately.
Using technology can free up resources and ultimately leads to decreased errors in other areas of the hospital. It promotes cost-effective healthcare by lowering staff time and increasing efficiency and accuracy. According to the Healthcare IT News, UCLA Health has moved from a hybrid electronic paper format to an all-electronic barcoding system and has created tremendous efficiencies and greater patient safety for their blood administration process. It has led to an 18 percent decrease in errors in their red blood cell transfusion process, decreasing risks for patients.
Errors are largely preventable, and patient safety has increased in priority for healthcare organizations. The Joint Commission has issued directives to encourage improvement in the accuracy of patient identification. Barcoding can reduce errors associated with manual protocols, work with electronic systems that relay patient information, free up resources for other tasks, as well as reduce stress levels. These trending technologies should be considered and explored.
Please contact PDC today to find the right blood band barcode wristband solution for you, and help reduce the fear of transfusion errors. For more information and to view our complete portfolio of patient safety and cost-reducing solutions, visit us at www.pdchealthcare.com.
1 U.S. Food and Drug Administration Bar Code Label Requirements for Human Drug Products and Biological Products; Final Rule, 2004