Background: Incorrect blood component transfusion is the most frequent serious incident associated with transfusion. Errors responsible for these incidents frequently involve patient misidentification.
Study design and methods: This study evaluated a barcode patient identification system involving hand-held computers for blood sample collection for compatibility testing and the administration of blood. Audit of practice was carried out before and after its introduction.
Results: The baseline audit revealed poor practice, particularly in patient identification. Significant improvements were found in the procedure for the administration of blood following the introduction of barcode patient identification, including an improvement from 11.8 to 100 percent in the correct verbal identification of patients (p </= 0.001). Similar significant improvements were found in matching verbally stated identification details with details on patient identification wristbands, in correct patient identification before the collection of blood samples, and in the proportion of correctly labeled samples. Staff found the barcode identification system easy to operate and preferred it to standard procedures.
Conclusions: A barcode patient identification system was found to simplify the clinical transfusion process and improve practice. These results provide support for further work on the development of such systems for transfusion and for other hospital procedures requiring patient identification.