Code scanning system reduces hospital errors

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 February, 2010, 12:00am

A code scanning system has helped 12 public hospitals to significantly reduce errors in blood sampling and transfusions, and 10 more hospitals will adopt the same system this year.

Until its introduction two years ago, staff at each of the 12 hospitals made between two and 10 errors a month during blood sampling, but now the number was down to zero in most hospitals, Hospital Authority chief manager for patient safety Dr Libby Lee Ha-yun said.

One of the hospitals had recorded three errors, but only because the staff concerned did not use the new scanning system, which requires a patient's identity to be confirmed by scanning a 2-D code on the wristband and one on a paper form. If the codes match, a confirmation label is printed. A procedure or test cannot begin unless there is a match and the label is stuck on the paper form.

The system will be introduced to 10 more hospitals this year, and will be taken up across all public hospitals in 2011. By 2012, the technology will be extended to pharmacies.

Lee said she hoped the system would also be extended to emergency rooms, day centres and out-patient clinics. She said the authority would spend HK$24 million on the project, including developing the software and buying scanners and printers.

Unlike a normal 1-D barcode, a 2-D code can store much more information, such as a patient's English and Chinese names and identity card number.

Meanwhile, mothers who are away from their babies do not need to fear that their newborns would be taken away by strangers. Babies will have smaller and tighter tags, similar to the ones preventing shoplifting in boutiques, attached to their wrists.

When an unauthorised person tries to carry a baby out of the ward, it will set off an alarm and the ward gates will be locked.

This new measure will be put in place this year in the nurseries, paediatric intensive care units and neonatal intensive care units under a pilot scheme at United Christian Hospital, Lee said. The scheme, which cost HK$4 million, will be reviewed after a year.

Currently, babies under intensive care already have RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, but they are larger than a HK$5 coin and can be easily pulled off from the wrist.