Texas Hospital Association Launches Wristband Standardization Initiative

Thursday, October 9, 2008 General News
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AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 8 Many hospitals use color-coded wristbands to alert caregivers about certain patient conditions. Red might denote a serious allergy, while blue could mean that the patient has requested a "do not resuscitate" order. But a tool meant to keep patients safe could have unintended consequences if caregivers are not clear about the meanings behind the colors.

To reduce the risk of error and enhance patient safety, the Texas Hospital Association has joined more than 25 other states in a voluntary effort to standardize the use of color-coded alert wristbands in hospitals. "This is one simple, but important, step hospitals can take to help ensure the safety of their patients," said Dan Stultz, M.D., FACP, FACHE, president/CEO of THA. "Each wristband, by virtue of its color, expresses a particular care directive for clinicians. With all hospitals agreeing to use the same colors, we can reduce the potential for error."

In January 2008, THA and the Texas Organization of Nurse Executives conducted a survey of Texas hospitals and learned that nine different colors/methods were being used to convey DNR, and seven different colors/methods conveyed fall risk. With many hospitals relying on temporary staffing agencies to supplement regular staff, the potential for confusion is obvious, significant and avoidable.

Through the leadership of THA, the Texas Organization of Nurse Executives, Texas A&M Health Science Center Rural and Community Health Institute, and TMF Health Quality Institute, Texas hospitals voluntarily are agreeing to use three color-coded "alert" wristbands. Red means allergy alert. Yellow means a risk of falls. Purple means the physician has written a do-not-resuscitate order based on the patient's advance directives. In addition to the meaning associated with the specific color, the alert is written on the wristband to reduce the chance of confusion.

To facilitate adoption of the standardized wristbands, THA developed a comprehensive online toolkit for hospitals (http://www.texashospitalsonline.org/Wristband/index.asp) and held a train-the-trainer conference call. A CD-ROM version of the toolkit also was mailed to all hospitals in Texas. THA will survey hospitals again in approximately nine months to review the effectiveness of the voluntary initiative.

Stultz, a physician, also noted that patients can help support patient safety by removing "social cause" wristbands before being admitted to the hospital.

"Texas hospitals are committed to providing safe patient care," he said. "This initiative furthers our ability to deliver on that promise."

About the Texas Hospital Association

Founded in 1930, the Texas Hospital Association is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state's hospitals and health care systems. Based in Austin, THA enhances its members' abilities to improve accessibility, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all Texans. One of the largest hospital associations in the country, THA represents more than 85 percent of the state's hospitals and health care systems, which employ some 340,000 health care professionals statewide. To learn more, visit www.texashospitalsonline.org.

CONTACT: Amanda Engler, APR, +1-512-465-1026, cell: +1-512-517-1133

SOURCE Texas Hospital Association

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