Case Study

'Two patient identifiers' is national patient safety goal

Patient: “You’ve been taking care of me for three days and you know me. So why do you keep asking my name and when I was born every time you come in here?” Nurse: “It’s one of the main things we do to keep you safe.”

Accurate patient identification is goal #1 among The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goals for 2014. The way Hallmark Health System (HHS) achieves this is to ask a patient’s full name and date of birth every time the patient is to receive a treatment or service and match that treatment or service to the patient. “This is not just a nursing policy,” said Risk Manager Debra Wright, RN, MPH, CPHRM. “It’s a policy for every encounter that involves administering care.”

While it may seem repetitious for patients and staff, the rationale for using two patient identifiers at every point of care is to eliminate “wrong-patient”errors that can occur during diagnosis and treatment. Such errors are not uncommon and have been cited frequently as a cause of serious events nationally. “Perhaps the most common cause for confusion is similar names,” said Wright. “We recently had a situation in which one patient received a test intended for another patient with a similar name. That’s why we need to remain vigilant about checking the two patient identifiers so we can eliminate this type of error.”

At HHS, the goal is to check the two patient identifiers 100 percent of the time. “This can be done either by asking the patient his or her full name and date of birth or, if the patient isn’t able to answer verbally, to verify the information using the patient’s wristband ID,” added Wright.

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