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Improving Patient Safety with Barcoded Wristbands

 The importance of patient safety has always been a necessity and accomplishing this has not always been easy. The “Five Rights of Medication Safety” were created to aid in that goal. Nurses and medical assistants try to ensure that the right patient gets the right drug in the right dose via the right route at the right time. Using handwritten charts or patient wristbands can be effective, but they still leave a lot of room for human error. Barcoded patient wristbands provide the foundation for multiple patient safety programs and are the starting point for complying with HIPAA and JCAHO requirements. Many medical facilities are going to barcoded wristbands, which the nurse scans with a mobile computer or a barcode scanner attached to a terminal on a powered cart. The barcode accesses the patient’s chart, including the medication instructions.

To create barcoded wristbands, you can use a laser printer or a barcode printer. Laser printers can print fairly good quality barcodes, but can take up valuable time and result in unnecessary waste. The wristbands themselves can’t be fed into a laser printer; so instead, a label is printed and then applied by hand to a blank wristband. To protect the ink on the laser label from chemicals and other fluids, a laminate must be applied over the label. This is usually a larger clear label or strip of tape that is also applied by hand. A full 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of labels must be fed through the laser printer, but typically, only one patient label is being printed at a time. The rest of the sheet can be fed through again to print more labels later, but after a few passes, the heat generated by the laser printing processes causes the adhesive on the labels to melt and ooze.

Barcode printers are a separate piece of hardware, but end up saving a great deal of time and money on supplies. Barcode printers can print directly on wristbands, which can be given to the patient in a matter of seconds. The barcode and text is printed on the wristband using direct thermal printing technology, which does not use ink, but just heat from the printhead. The image then is not susceptible to chemicals or other fluids, so a separate lamination is not needed. The barcode printer also prints just one wristband at a time, so none are wasted.

Zebra, a leading manufacturer of barcode printers, designed the HC100 Patient ID Solution specifically to meet the unique needs of healthcare providers. The solution combines the Zebra HC100 direct thermal printer with Z-Band® wristband cartridges. These wristbands are the only in the industry with antimicrobial-coating to protect the wristband against S. aureus, P. aeruginosa, E. coli and MRSA Types II, III, and IV. The wristband cartridges are easily loaded into the barcode printer-no feeding of the media is required.

Zebra has written a white paper on how barcoded wristbands can be used to improve patient safety and satisfy patient identification and privacy requirements. “The Simplest Way to Improve Patient Safety” white paper describes barcode, material, and printing options. The white paper also explains the applications and presents implementation strategies.

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