|April 23, 2009||Peter Phelps
BCHS standardizes patient-alert wristbands; voluntary effort protects patients
Battle Creek Health System has announced plans to join a statewide initiative that standardizes the use of color-coded patient-alert wristbands effective June 1. It is expected that this new program will reduce inconsistencies between Michigan hospitals that can result in fewer medical errors.
The goal of the effort is to decrease the risk of such errors by standardizing the colors of five patient-alert wristbands: allergy (red), fall risk (yellow), do-not-resuscitate (purple), limb risk (pink), and latex allergy (green).
"Our top priority is to ensure high quality health care for all of our patients," says Denise Brooks-Williams, BCHS president and CEO. "By joining a majority of hospitals in using the same color wristbands, we can improve the patients' experiences, regardless of which facilities provide the patient care. This is one simple, but important step to help ensure safe, quality care."
At the close of 2008, more than 25 states had standardized color-coded patient-alert wristbands. Consistent with those states, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association Patient Safety Organization (MHA PSO), headquartered in Lansing, is leading a similar effort to consistently and effectively communicate an alert to a health care provider if the patient as an allergy, is a fall risk, and/or carries a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order. In addition to the meaning associated with the specific color, the alert is pre-printed on the wristband to further reduce the chance for confusion when patients, physicians, and nurses travel between different hospitals.
The MHA PSO board clarified that this initiative is not meant to encourage hospitals to begin using color-coded patient-alert wristbands if a facility currently does not use wristbands. Rather, the initiative's goal is to gain a 100 percent standardization-rate among those Michigan hospitals that currently use color-coded wristbands, which BCHS does.
The MHA PSO will conduct the effort using the same approaches used by the MHA Keystone Center for Patient Safety & Quality that has made the State of Michigan the national benchmark for patient safety and quality since 2003. (BCHS is part of the Keystone project as well). The MHA Keystone Center has been featured in state and national media including The New England Journal of Medicine and The New Yorker and has been embraced by the World Health Organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, as a model program to reduce medical errors in nations across the globe.
"Through the MHA Keystone Center, as well as their individual efforts, Michigan hospitals and health systems lead the nation in advancing patient safety and quality initiatives," says Spencer Johnson, president of the MHA. "Our hospitals are proud of this achievement and are motivated by continuous improvement as they set the quality bar higher to benefit the patients and the communities they serve."
In order for the color-coded patient-alert wristband initiative to be truly successful, patients and family members need to understand the meaning behind the wristbands colors.
"If patients have allergies to foods, pollens, medications, or latex, they should share that information when admitted," says Wendy Boersma, director of patient care operations support. "If they have a tendency to lose their balance, they should tell their nurse or physician. And if they have an advance directive, they should let their caregivers know so that their wishes can be honored. Finally, patients should leave any 'social cause' (i.e. Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG yellow bracelet) wristbands at home to avoid confusion."
For more information about Battle Creek Health System's uniform wristband initiative, contact Boersma at (269) 966-8591.