Update – Red alert

Patient identification standards could be on the horizon for Australian ambulance services. 

In our recent article titled Red alert we looked at the recommendations made by a Coroner following the administration of a penicillin based antibiotic to a woman with a known allergy to penicillin.
One of the recommendations made by the Coroner was that Queensland Ambulance Service investigate the possibility of a red alert wrist band system for patients with a significant condition such as allergies.

Given the Coroner admitted the red alert wristband concept had not been thoroughly considered at Inquest we decided to consult the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality for their opinion on the coordinated implementation of this system in ambulance services across Australia. The Commission’s Director of Strategy and Development promptly replied and revealed what might be a change on the horizon for Australian ambulance services.

The National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards includes a standard about patient identification and procedure matching. The red alert wrist bands come under this standard. In short, the NSQHS Standards do not mandate the use of red alert wrist bands. However, if an institution chooses to use them, they must adhere to specifications.

The NSQHS Standards, which were released in 2008 and endorsed by all Australian Health Ministers, are under review. While the current Standards do not apply to ambulance services, a consultation version will be released in August 2015 and a section pertaining to patient identification may apply to all healthcare settings, including Australian ambulance services.

The correspondence from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality’s Director is below for your reference.

In the meantime, what a prehospital patient identification system would look like and how it is implemented is open for discussion. What are your thoughts?

The author Elia Petzierides is a Victorian based Advanced Life Support Paramedic and Registered Nurse with a Graduate Diploma in Advanced Clinical Nursing.

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“Dear Elia,

Thanks for your email.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality released specifications about patient identification bands in 2008. These were endorsed by all Australian Health Ministers and are available on our website. The specifications include the potential to use red identification bands for patients with alert conditions, such as allergies.

The National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards includes a standard about patient identification and procedure matching. The intent of this standard is to ensure that patients are correctly identified and correctly matched to their intended treatment. Identification bands are one method of ensuring that this occurs. The NSQHS Standards do not require the use of patient identification bands, however if they are used in inpatient settings, they need to align with the specifications. The NSQHS Standards do not require the use of identification bands as there are some settings in which they are not appropriate. The NSQHS Standards are available from here.  

The Commission has not made any statement about patient identification or the use of identification bands in ambulance services. It may be that identification bands could be a useful tool in this environment, but they should be part of a broader approach to correct patient identification and procedure matching, particularly in the context of the transfer of care between ambulance and other services. The NSQHS Standards are not mandatory for ambulance services, however some state health departments are looking at how they can be applied in this setting. The Commission is currently reviewing the NSQHS Standards and a consultation version will be available in late August. The NSQHS Standards could form the basis of a national approach to patient identification and procedure matching in all healthcare settings, including ambulances.

Kind regards,

Nicola Dunbar

Director, Strategy and Development

Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care”

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One thought on “Update – Red alert

  1. Pingback: Red alert | GraveLessons.com

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