ISG Blog

3 Best Practices for Reducing Specimen Labeling Errors

Re-posted with permission from PDC Healthcare and edited.

Last week, we talked about the 3 ways that incorrect specimen labeling was threatening your healthcare facility’s accuracy and efficiency. This week, we are going to provide you with some remedies to those ills. Mislabeled, unlabeled and incomplete labels put your patients at risk.

They also result in wasted employee hours in verifying, identifying and correcting label mistakes before a medical mistake happens. Human errors can still happen at any time, but with the proper fail safes in place, the vast majority of them can be quickly identified and solved without incident.

Below are some practical steps your healthcare facility can take to reduce medical errors and improve patient safety without a huge financial investment.

Here are 3 Best Practices for Reducing Specimen Labeling Errors:

1. Use at Least Two Patient Identifiers

Specimens must be properly labeled at the time of collection, by using positive patient identification prior to administering the patient’s test, and applying the label to the specimen. Medication containers must be in the presence of your patient when labeling, to ensure it is the right patient and test. To comply with Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goals (NPSG 01.01.01) and IQCP, your specimen must always be labeled with at least two patient identifiers (e.g. patient’s name full legal name, date of birth, medical record number, and sample source).

2. Enforce Periodic Quality Audits for Proper Labeling

In addition to having at least two patient identifiers on the specimen label, it is imperative to confirm that specimens are properly labeled and legible. All specimens must have a quality label affixed to them, with no missing pertinent patient information. Be sure the label has the correct patient name, patient information, contents, and specimen source. Avoid handwritten labels, since legibility is essential, and misinterpreting handwriting can greatly impact patient safety. It is important to conduct proper training and periodic audits for all staff, to ensure that all specimens are labeled correctly every time.

3. Implement Barcode ID System

Since handwritten specimen labels run the risk of negatively affecting your facility’s efficiency and decreasing patient safety, it is highly advantageous to implement a facility-wide barcode ID system. In fact, effectiveness of barcoding for reducing patient specimen labeling and lab testing identification errors is part of the CDC’s Laboratory Medicine Best Practices (LMBP). When establishing a barcode ID system, consistent scanning is vital. 86% of reported labs use barcoding, but an overwhelming 44% do not scan consistently, and 14% never scan their label’s barcode or patient ID wristband. Be sure to implement facility-wide quality management protocols to ensure staff consistently follows the designated process for scanning patient and specimen barcodes.

Discuss Your Labeling Needs with Your Local ISG Expert

Ultimately, it is important that you purchase quality labels that can withstand harsh hospital environments. No matter how efficient your system, if labels are falling off your blood tubes, or if print is smearing or fading, your facility is at a higher risk for specimen identification errors.

Talk to your local ISG expert about your specific healthcare patient identification needs. From lab labels to wristbands and patient ID cards to biometric verification, we have the solutions you need to correctly identify and serve your customer’s medical needs. Reduce duplicate records, eliminate patient errors and improve the quality of your service today.

Let us help you today!


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