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Barcode labelling in the lab: closing the loop of patient safety

October 18th, 2018
In healthcare environments, patient safety is always goal number one.

But on top of this requirement, patients also want assurance that they are receiving the right care, in the right way, based on the right information.

Detecting and preventing errors that threaten patient safety is a closed-loop process that begins at the point of care, extends to independent laboratories, and then back to the caregiver.

Sample identification errors can lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment with deadly consequences. In fact, a 2006 Wall Street Journal article reported that while malpractice claims for pathology errors are relatively low, they are the second most costly.

In addition to creating a serious risk to patient safety, sample misidentification creates significant financial implications. Retesting and additional treatment that results from sample errors cost the healthcare industry an estimated $200 million to $400 million per year.

One of the most crucial areas in ensuring information accuracy in healthcare is the laboratory. It’s is an important line of defence against patient safety errors because of the role it can play in preventing events related to sample misidentification.

By establishing processes to accurately label and identify samples, laboratory staff can significantly reduce the chances of misidentified, lost, or unusable samples, and the related negative consequences.

Barcode labelling and sample tracking is a proven method for reducing sample identification and data entry errors while meeting regulatory mandates. The accuracy of barcode data entry has been widely estimated at one error per 3 million characters - significantly more accurate than typing or other forms of manual data entry.

The benefits of barcode labelling also extend into laboratory operations. Lab staff can scan barcodes to identify samples, record transfers and support test-result entry. Automated data entry is highly accurate, which improves patient safety by eliminating errors. As a side benefit, barcode sample identification and data entry also save time, enabling lab staff to spend more time on clinical rather than clerical activities, while helping to keep lab costs in check.

But reliability is essential to successful sample labelling and improved patient safety. Barcodes must be of the highest quality, readable and durable, and label material must be engineered to withstand challenging test and storage conditions, allowing facilities to keep costs under control.

Barcode printing solutions from BlueStar partner Zebra can help healthcare organisations and laboratories reduce errors and increase productivity. Zebra’s range of mobile computers, scanners and printers can provide laboratories with unique hardware solutions designed specifically for the demands of the busiest healthcare labs.




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