Background: Incorrect blood component transfused is a frequent serious incident associated with transfusion and often involves misidentification of the patient and/or the unit of blood.
Study design and methods: This study extended the evaluation of an electronic system involving bar code technology and handheld computers. Electronic control of collection of blood from blood refrigerators was incorporated into a previously described process for blood sample collection and blood administration. Practice was evaluated before and after its introduction in cardiac surgery.
Results: The baseline audits revealed poor practice. Significant improvements were found following the introduction of the electronic system, including from 8 percent to 100 percent in checking that the blood group and unit number on the blood pack matched the compatibility label and the pack was in date (p < or = 0.0001). Similar significant improvements were found in blood sample collection, the collection of blood from blood refrigerators, and the documentation of transfusion. Staff found the system easy to operate and preferred it to standard procedures.
Conclusions: A bar code patient identification system improved transfusion practice, although areas for improvement were identified. These results provide support for further work on the development of such systems for both transfusion and other procedures requiring patient identification.