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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Medical Error Prevention: Patient Safety. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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National Patient Safety Goal: Identify Patients Correctly

Patient misidentification errors can have a significant impact on patients and even be life-threatening. Two patient identifiers should be used at any stage of the laboratory total testing process. This is of particular importance when collecting a patient sample. Examples of acceptable patient identifiers are:
  • Individual's full name
  • An individual-specific identifier, such as:
    • birth date
    • hospital number
    • medical record number
    • other assigned unique identification number
Patient location is not a suitable identifier. Turnover of beds and rooms happens frequently, so a room number or bed number is not adequate identification.
If a patient is able to respond, it is also important to ask the patient to state his or her name. It is not acceptable to confirm identification by simply asking a patient if their name is "Mr. James" or "Mrs. Davis," for example. Older patients with hearing impairment, patients with compromised mental states, or patients who speak a language other than yours may simply agree. Patients must state their name themselves.
Identification armbands are typically seen on inpatients, with more institutions using armbands on outpatients as well. Armbands can only be used for identification if they are attached to the patient directly. An armband that is not affixed to the patient but attached to the wall, bed, or other object is not sufficient for identification.
Specimens must be labeled in the presence of the patient.