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Reducing patient identification errors
Detailed information about the care a patient has been given plays a major role in the safety and quality of care they will receive in the future.
Not only is it important to maintain accurate patient records, it’s essential to ensure that they are accurately matched with the correct patient when further treatment is being given.
That’s why 1000 Lives Plus, the five year programme to improve patient safety and reduce avoidable harm across NHS Wales, is committed to reducing patient identification errors.
In modern healthcare, mis-identification can cause delays in treatment if appointments are missed or test results and scans can be ‘lost’ because they were filed incorrectly.
In extreme circumstances, patients can receive the wrong treatment because incorrect records are being maintained.
International research confirms that duplicate patient records in health organisations’ information systems present a major risk to patient safety.
It is therefore vital that patients are identified correctly and identification is quickly and easily established throughout their treatment.
Reducing patient identification errors is addressed through greater use of the unique NHS number which every person is given – either at birth, or when they register with a GP.
We are encouraging the use of the number as a patient identifier at all times – whether it is incorporated on a standardized wrist band at registration or used to track down test results.
More detailed searches are being made so that duplicate records aren’t created and a patient’s full medical history is attained to enable more informed care.
Robust monitoring mechanisms and routine audit processes will be applied to this area of healthcare as in any other, to ensure high standards of data entry are maintained.
The new health organisations, following the restructuring of the NHS in
The NHS Wales Informatics Service is also working with health boards to develop an electronic system that will support staff in this work.
The system will hold a definitive source of patient demographic data for each patient (name address, date of birth, sex) to maintain consistency of patient information across systems.
When a clinician then searches for a patient on a linked IT system they will be provided with the most up-to-date patient demographic information for that patient and be alerted to the presence of records on all of the linked systems.
This focus on patient safety which starts before a patient sees a clinical member of staff is clearly vital in the quality of care that’s provided. 1000 Lives Plus is committed to improving patient safety at every stage of the patient’s experience of care.
It will take time and effort to get it right – but every opportunity we have to make the care we deliver safer and improve the experience of patients being served by NHS Wales should be grasped.
Dr Alan Willson is Director of 1000 Lives Plus
Last updated: 03/08/2010