As we detailed in our article on using biometric identification to improve patient safety, safe patient identification is a priority for WHO (World Health Organization). It is known that 1 of every 100 hospitalized patients suffers an adverse event linked to an identification error according to the SiNASP.
However, when an adverse event occurs, patients are the first victims, but they are not the only ones. The professionals involved in an error also suffer: they are the so-called second victims. According to a study by the Mapfre Foundation in Spain, 15% of health professionals are involved in an adverse event (http://www.mapfre.com/fundacion/html/revistas/trauma/v24n1/docs/Articulo8.pdf). And according to the Spanish Ministry of Health, between 50% and 70% of these adverse events are avoidable (https://www.seguridaddelpaciente.es/resources/documentos/2015/Estrategia%20Seguridad%20del%20Paciente%202015-2020.pdf).
The problems that the second victims face are of several types: from legal responsibilities (civil or criminal) to serious emotional problems that can affect their own work. A study of the American College of Surgeons (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/28093300/) indicates that the most serious emotional problems detected in the second victims are: sadness (52%), anxiety (66%), guilt (60%), shame (42%) and anger (29%). And the main reason detected for not reporting the adverse event is fear of legal problems (50%).
The most common causes of patient identification errors according to the ECRI (https://www.ecri.org/Resources/HIT/Patient%20ID/Patient_Identification_Toolkit_final.pdf), can be summarized in the following categories:
- Identification policies: Poorly defined, Non-existent, Not applied.
- Patient admission: Lack of data to identify, Inefficient computer systems, No photo is required to verify identity
- Physical identifiers (id wristbands): Missing id wristbands, Id wristbands with erroneous data, Badly designed id wristbands, Id wristbands that can not be placed (newborns, trauma) or that patients take them away
- Documentation: Distraction or fatigue of staff, Similar or equal names, Patients physically located nearby (including adjacent medical records), Labeling errors, Communication errors between equipment
- Technology: Duplicate medical records, Errors in barcodes
Biometrics allows the elimination of many of these patient identification errors, since it avoids manual errors of introduction and data search in hospital management systems or electronic medical records. It also prevents any mistake of similar or equal names, since the identification comes by our unique physical characteristics and is, therefore, unequivocal.
The healthcare staff, as shown in our success case of Arrixaca Hospital, shows great acceptance and confidence in the security of the biometric solution implemented. The biometric identification thus becomes a tool that provides more security to clinical processes, allowing professionals to work with more tranquility and efficiency. Also avoiding the second victims.