Don’t let patient labelling errors become a costly lesson

Don’t let patient labelling errors become a costly lesson

When we think about healthcare, it’s usually the people that come to mind. Everyone has experienced – at some point in their lives – a doctor, a nurse or a surgeon who has helped them in their time of need.

For people that make healthcare work rely on systems, processes and technology to support them, errors with something as simple as printing a label for an ID wristband can have significant ramifications for safety, security and patient outcomes.

In this post we look at administrative challenges in healthcare and the positive role labelling and other print solutions designed specifically for the healthcare sector can play.

The cost of administrative errors in healthcare

Healthcare accounts for a significant chunk of Australia’s economy, with total spending on healthcare having increased dramatically over the past decade.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), which compiles healthcare data for the federal government, spending grew by 50 per cent in real terms over the ten years to 2015 /16. Australia’s population expanded by 17 per cent over the same period.

That means an average of $7,100 is spent on healthcare for every Australian.

Comparatively speaking, Australia has a safe and effective healthcare system. Australians have life-expectancy in the top third of OECD countries. It is one of the best countries in the world in which to get sick.

Up to 70 per cent of primary care errors are administrative, according to the WHO

But administrative errors still happen, leading to inefficiency at one end of the spectrum and serious harm to patients at the other.

A global study by the World Health Organisation revealed that administrative errors were the most widely-reported type of error in primary care, accounting for as much as 70 per cent of the total in some cases.

Administrative errors and patient security

Errors in the administrative processes that support healthcare professionals damage patient outcomes in a number of ways.

One example is security in hospitals.

A modern healthcare clinic at sunset
Proper patient labelling in healthcare is of paramount importance

Hospitals present a number of security challenges and effective patient labelling solutions can play an important role in helping to meet them.

Hospitals tend to be very large buildings. The Fiona Stanley Hospital in Murdoch, Western Australia, for example, has almost 800 beds and covers an area of 150,000 square metres.

Hospitals also have lots of different entrances and exits, with patients, staff and members of the public coming and going at all hours.

Identifying people accurately, easily and quickly is an essential part of any hospital’s security effort.

An effective patient labelling solution can ensure that staff know who their patients are, where they are and what they’re being treated for.

The technology that supports patient labelling is absolutely essential, especially for vulnerable patients, such as newborn babies and the elderly.

As well as ID wristbands, a smooth and reliable printing process allows healthcare professionals to accurately identify patient documents, charts, files and specimens.

Securing sensitive patient data

An increasingly important part of delivering good patient outcomes is data.

The ability to make patient information easily available to healthcare professionals, when and where they need it, opens up lots of exciting possibilities for effective diagnosis and treatment.

But personal medical records are highly sensitive. If you find yourself needing urgent care you probably want the doctor to be able to take a look at your previous ailments to help guide their treatment. However, it’s easy to imagine other situations where you would want your medical history to remain confidential – from potential employers, family members, for example.

Patient labelling solutions play an important role in data security within healthcare environments, by reducing chances of physical documents getting lost or ending up in the wrong hands.

Patient data is also at risk from cybercrime. This makes the virtual security of printers and other connected devices a key consideration, as these can be targeted by malicious hackers.

Healthcare has more data breaches than any other industry, according to the OAIC

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) compiles quarterly statistics on data breaches.

It’s June 2019 figures show healthcare had the highest number of what the OAIC calls notifiable data breaches (NBDs). However, the processes and technology appear to be doing their bit, as none of the healthcare NBDs were system errors.

If you’d like to know more about print labelling solutions for the healthcare sector – and how they can reduce administrative errors, improve security and deliver better patient outcomes – get in touch with the team today.


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