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Tiny Tag Team

November 1, 2006
by root
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Danbury Hospital aims to keep its infants safe with bar-coded bands.

For Danbury Hospital — a 371-bed regional medical center and community teaching hospital with specialized programs for maternity, neonatal and pediatric medicine — keeping tabs on its littlest patients is no small task. Looking to provide increased infant patient safety, the Danbury, Conn., hospital has updated its infant wristbands with bar code tags by San Fernando, Calif.-based Precision Dynamics Corp. (PDC).

According to Kathy Halpin, IT project leader for Danbury Health Systems, before the PDC tags, the hospital was using handwritten wristbands for the 200 or so babies born each month. What that meant for Danbury were bands too tiny to afford medical record identifiers and too much room for error.

PDC approached Danbury for help in creating soft, flexible and durable wristband tags for use with newborns and those in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). After R&D, testing and a pilot, bar code-tagged wristbands that could be flipped up for scanning when on the infant were created.

The bar code tags show a variety of key patient information — the child's name, sex, date of birth, medical record number and, of course, a bar code.

"When a baby is born, they take a packet of these," Halpin says. "There are four bands; two tiny ones for the baby — one for the ankle, one for the wrist — and one for mom and dad." The tags help to ensure verification that the right baby is with the right parent. They also ensure security: If the infant is taken away from the maternity area, an alarm goes off.

When considering such an implementation, Halpin cautions the importance of getting input from a variety of areas — clinical, technology and purchasing. She suggests getting advice on printer selection from the tag vendor, as lining up the tags in the printer can be a challenge. Another key, she says, is stress testing. Danbury Hospital had its lab spill liquids on the tags to be sure that the ink did not bleed.

And though Danbury was "printing here and printing there," Halpin regrets not having clinicians more rigorously test the printers, as it's important for the tags to be easy to use for the nurses, too. "The nurses like the tags, and they say that it makes some of their work easier," Halpin says, adding, "They do feel it's pretty accurate."

Author Information:

Stacey Kramer