Safety and Quality > Our Work > Patient Identification

Patient identification and the matching of a patient to an intended treatment is an activity that is performed routinely in all care settings. Risks to patient safety occur when there is a mismatch between a given patient and components of their care, whether these components are diagnostic, therapeutic or supportive. Throughout health care, the failure to correctly identify patients and match that information to an intended clinical intervention continues to result in wrong person, wrong site procedures, medication errors, transfusion errors and diagnostic testing errors.

There are many causes of errors related to patient identification and procedure matching and a wide range of strategies have been proposed to address them. The work of the Commission has focused on the standardisation of processes and development of safety routines for the common tasks needed for patient identification. These safety routines allow the workforce to focus their attention on those activities that require more cognitive processing and judgement, such as the provision of clinical care.

One of the key drivers for the standardisation of patient identification processes is the Standard 5: Patient Identification and Procedure Matching of the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards.

Investigating technological solutions to address patient misidentification

Widespread use of barcodes, radio frequency identification devices (RFID) and other biometric devices in other industries has resulted in attempts to introduce such approaches in health care. Experience overseas has demonstrated the relatively high cost of introduction, the importance of effective implementation methodologies and the influence of the commercial market.

To support the uptake of appropriate technological solutions in Australia, in 2008 the Commission commissioned a Review of Technology Solutions to Patient Misidentification (PDF 245 KB) to investigate the current use an potential benefits of technological solutions to patient misidentification in the Australian healthcare setting and its application to safety and quality.

Specifications for a standard patient identification band

The Commission has developed specifications for a standard national patient identification band. The specifications set out standards for the useability, content and colour of patient identification bands inAustralia.. The National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards require that when identification bands are used for inpatients, that they meet these specifications.

Patient / procedure matching protocols

The National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards require the use of documented processes to match patients and their intended care. Patient / procedure matching protocols provide guidance regarding the steps that should be taken to correctly match patients to their intended care. There are a number of different patient/procedure matching protocols available, including:

– World Health Organization Surgical Safety Checklist
– Ensuring Correct Patient, Correct Site, Correct Procedure protocol
– Ensuring Correct Patient, Correct Site, Correct Procedure protocols for radiology, nuclear medicine, radiation therapy and oral surgery