AHA Urges Standardization of Wrist Bands

The American Hospital Association (AHA) issued new guidelines suggesting that all hospitals across the country implement a universal color-coding system for patient wristbands. This is one step to improving the safety of patients and has already been implemented in some states, such as Ohio.

Ohio’s adoption of a universal standard was published last year on HospitalBuyer. Over 25 states have offered guidelines for facilities, the adoption of which is entirely voluntary. In those states where common banding has been implemented, healthcare workers have noted reduced confusion.

The lack of a universal system can result in confusion among healthcare workers who cover multiple institutions. Wristbands are employed because they have critical meaning; do not resuscitate, allergy, or fall risk. The inability to recognize the bands meaning, at a glance, can delay appropriate action.

The colors proposed by the AHA are consensus based from different states across the country. The recommendation is red for allergy, yellow for fall risk, and purple for do not resuscitate.

Another recommendation from the AHA is that all patients wear these bands on the same arm. Any other jewelry that could cause confusion should be taken off during hospitalization. Messages should have the relevant warning pre-printed, to avoid confusion with illegible handwriting.

Additional guidance from the AHA highlights standard practice related to wristbands that should not be overlooked. For example, the bands are only meant to serve as a reminder about patient conditions or needs, for example. Information should always be verified in a patient’s chart. This key information should always be shared when patients are transitioned from one to another level or type of care.

For those facilities that have yet to adopt the standards, hospitals may consider system-wide educational efforts if  standardization is launched. With this system, all those employed in the setting can become involved in assuring patient safety. Patients as well as their families should also be educated about the use of the wristbands.

September 10, 2008 Related topics: Quality, Safety, Errors

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