Visual Controls: Hospital Wristbands

 In an action that embodies the principles of both visual controls and standard work, several Arizona hospitals have agreed to all use the same system of color-coded wristbands for patients.

            (OK, maybe this is isn’t exactly standard work. But it is a case of everyone agreeing to do something the same way.)

            Color-coded wristbands are not new. But according to a story in the Phoenix Daily News-Sun, Barb Averyt, program director of patient safety at Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, realized there was a problem. Many nurses and doctors practice at more than one hospital, but the wristband colors vary from hospital to hospital – which could confuse medical staff.

            Specifically, eight different colors were being used in the 47 Arizona hospitals to signify DNR (do not resuscitate). In addition, Averyt (shown in the photo above) said an incident at a Pennsylvania hospital – where a nurse gave a patient the wrong wristband, which could have caused a fatality – spurred her to take action.

            Averyt created a new program, called Safe & Sound, which was launched this spring. All the hospitals now use red wristbands to designate allergy risk, yellow to designate fall risk, and purple to designate DNR. (There are more than three types of risk, but the program focuses on these three as among the most significant. And yes, DNR is not exactly a form of risk, but whether a patient is DNR is critical information for medical staff.)

            So far, six states in addition to Arizona have adopted the program, and at least another four are considering it. Averyt received an award through the Arizona Partners for Implementing Patient Safety.

            Simple, low-tech, and inexpensive – now that’s the way to achieve improvement.

            Can you think of other good, simple methods for improving processes? Post a comment telling us about them.



Ralph Bernstein said...

6/21/2007 5:32:03 PM
Re: Visual Controls: Hospital Wristbands
By: wwake

At Henrico doctor's Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, they also code for "fall risk" - everybody has a green, yellow, or red sandal on their door, and they're given socks that match that color.

Ralph Bernstein said...

6/23/2007 11:17:03 AM
Re: Visual Controls: Hospital Wristbands
By: mgraban

Great example of the need for standardization ACROSS organizations, not just in one organization.

Be careful if you're in a hospital where DNR is a yellow wristband (just like the famous LiveStrong bracelets!!). Some hospitals cover up or take off the LiveStrongs to avoid the DieAccidentally events.

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