How “Simple” Patient Identification Tools Drive Better Front-line Care

Three ways that wristbands improve hospital operations at the bedside and beyond

A doctor uses a Zebra handheld mobile computer to scan a patient’s barcode-equipped wristband.
by Wayne Miller
June 07, 2019

Financial sustainability. Digital transformation. Regulatory compliance. These are all hot topics when healthcare leaders collaborate with stakeholders – such as technology providers, suppliers and government – in pursuit of a sustainable, smart health community. However, one driving factor always tops the agenda: patient care.

The first key step on the road to an optimal patient outcome is positive patient identification. Hospitals need to ensure the right patient is transported to the right place at the right time, that the patient receives the right treatment and that the whole patient journey is fully documented. The easiest and, arguably, most cost-efficient way to accomplish this goal is with the use of wristbands.

How Wristbands Help to Improve Patient Care

As a best practice, it is recommended that patients receive a wristband with a unique barcode upon admission to your hospital. This barcode enables you to make patient-specific information such as a name, date of birth, medical number, previous conditions and allergies accessible to all who will interact with patients during their hospital stay. This barcode can be scanned via enterprise-grade handheld mobile computers or rugged tablets during:

  1. Patient bedside observations: This is one of the more commonly-used wristband applications today. Using a barcode scanner-equipped mobile device, healthcare providers can quickly retrieve all of a patient’s personal information collected via intake forms and historical medical records in a single view in real time. This automatically reduces paperwork volume during the course of care and allows for a more collaborative and informed care process that improves patient safety and outcomes. For example, the ability to identify and respond to deteriorating patients – and escalate to the relevant clinician and clinical team immediately – facilitates faster communications and action.
  2. Patient transport: Wristband barcode scanning improves the quality and safety of service. It also shortens patient waiting times and increases porter productivity, as one Dutch hospital group can attest. It was the first hospital group in the Netherlands to use barcoded wristbands to ID patients at the bedside, and healthcare leaders were pleased with how the wristbands improved the quality of care whilst reducing the risk of errors. So, when they were evaluating ways to improve patient transport activities, they decided to introduce a digital “order” system that sent patient transport requests to hospital porters via handheld mobile computers. As you will see in this success story, the porters now use the mobile computers to scan a patient’s wristband upon pickup to verify his or her identity and destination. The wristband is then scanned again when the patient has safely been delivered to his or her destination, enabling the hospital to track patient movements in real time.
  3. “Scan to patient” scenarios: Wristbands are a critical tool in ensuring the patient is receiving the correct medication at the correct time and that suitable equipment is being utilised at the point of care, whether at the bedside or during an operation. Wristbands also assist with inventory management, allowing healthcare facilities to monitor use levels and automatically reorder as needed. Just as importantly, they help with implant traceability in case of recalls or batch defects, as The Hexagone Neuilly Group has learned.  A Zebra wristband-centric solution is enabling this group of eminent French clinics to conform with the European Union (EU) Medical Devices Regulation, which dictates that healthcare providers must be able to trace all products used during medical operations. Like others, The Hexagone Neuilly Group believed it best to automate its implant traceability process – and the first step was to use wristband scans to correlate a patient’s identity with a specific implant to complete the implant registration process. But the benefits of this implant traceability solution were not exclusive to this single workflow.

As The Hexagone Neuilly Group has successfully demonstrated, the technologies that comprise patient identification systems are often very versatile. Their use can (and should) extend far beyond patient-focused applications. There are many cases in which the same technologies used in the above three examples are also used to digitalise and/or streamline:

  • Unique Product Identification
  • Inventory Control
  • Centralised Purchasing
  • Asset Tracking
  • Staff Location

Together with the right software, hardware solutions that include wristbands, mobile computers, scanners, tablets and/or printers ensure insurance and regulatory compliance, streamline asset traceability, reduce errors and drive efficiencies and cost savings for the healthcare sector. They also deliver actionable intelligence and clinical evidence of the long-term suitability of implants or medication per demographic, which is a critical step forward on the road to the sustainable, smart health community that governments, patients, healthcare providers and Zebra collectively envision for the future. But, if we are to achieve that end goal, one priority should remain constant at the heart of every healthcare system: optimal front-line patient care, of which wristbands (and patient ID systems) are a fundamental building block.

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Editor’s note:

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Wayne Miller
Wayne is the Zebra lead for Healthcare solutions and works to directly improve patient care, supporting partners and end users.



























































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