Standardizing the Standards

Hospitals try to reduce wristband code risks

To put this in manufacturing terms, imagine how you might have to change your process if your product might get transferred to another factory for additional processes.

In recent years, hospitals have widely adopted color-coded wristbands as visual cues, reminding staffers to check for medication allergies, special risks and signed end-of-life document known as a do-not-resuscitate order.

But with no standard guides to designate specific meanings for each color, the wristbands designed to protect patients are actually increasing the risk of harm, safety experts say, endangering patients transferred between hospitals and confusing nurses and doctors who rotate among several hospitals where yellow might mean “do not resuscitate” in one and “restricted extremity for blood draw” in another.

I hope the health care industry can take action on this. Being aware of the risk is one thing, taking action is what’s important. The article lists a few examples of states where industry groups are taking on this challenge, but there’s really no excuse for this to not be worked on everywhere, including your community.

To address the problem, a number of hospitals around the country have formed groups to standardize color designations in their states and regions.

Here’s yet another example of how it doesn’t necessarily cost a lot of money to make a quality/safety improvement. Working on processes is inexpensive, compared to relying on high tech solutions. That’s often true in manufacturing, as well as in health care

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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