New Color Coded Hospital Bracelets Save Lives, But Raise Privacy Concerns

Confusion about what those color coded bracelets mean can cause deadly medical mistakes, but if the bracelets are standardized — is everyone going to know your business?

The NYT has an interesting article about the movement to standardize the bracelets:

The goal is to prevent potentially dangerous mistakes, like giving the wrong food to an allergic child, or allowing a patient with balance problems to walk unescorted down a freshly waxed hallway. The drive was spurred, in part, by a notorious 2005 Pennsylvania case in which a patient nearly died because a nurse used a yellow band thinking it meant “restricted extremity” (don’t draw blood from that arm), as it did at another hospital where the nurse sometimes worked, when at this hospital it meant D.N.R.

While the new color-coding has been quickly embraced by at least 20 states and endorsed by the American Hospital Association, the purple bands, typically embossed with the letters D.N.R. to reinforce the message, are meeting with some resistance.

The nation’s leading hospital-accreditation agency, known as the Joint Commission, has expressed caution about the new system, citing concerns about branding patients by their end-of-life choices, or inadvertently broadcasting those choices to family and friends who have not been consulted.

The commission also said that children who do not understand the system had been prone to trade the wristbands like baseball cards.

Awwwwkkwaaarrrdd. The main takeaway for the consumer is that hospitals make mistakes, so it’s a good idea to ask questions about the bracelets that they put on you and make sure that everything is as it should be. If something doesn’t seem right, speak up for yourself or for your family.

Hospital Bracelets Face Hurdles as They Fix Hazard [NYT]
(Photo:Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times)