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ID errors dropped after hospital changed newborn naming process

Not every mother and/or father has a name for their baby when the birth finally happens. Some couples have that planned out in advance, while others prefer to let the moment strike them just right. But there are other situations where the medical emergency involved with the child dictates that the medical care they receive is more important than naming the baby.

For example, say a baby needs intensive care immediately. In that situation, the doctors aren't going to wait around while the parents argue over "Kathryn" or "Katelyn."

So these babies are placed in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) with temporary generic names. "Babyboy" or "Babygirl" with an identifying number is a very common naming procedure for NICUs. One study said roughly 80 percent of facilities followed this process.

But with such generic names with only numbers to differentiate between patients, errors were being made. Orders for medicines were being given to the wrong babies. So one NICU decided to mix it up and try a new naming protocol. Instead of the generic names, they used a more specific naming protocol. They would name patients "Babygirl Johnson" or "WendysGirl" instead.

Under the new system, wrong-patient electronic orders dropped by 36 percent.

It's great to see some outside-the-box thinking leading to positive results in the real world. Hopefully, more simple (and yet creative) ideas like this can help hospitals, and the medical field in general, improve upon archaic rules and processes that hurt patients and make the medical process a scary and painful experience for many innocent people.

Source: Vox, "How one hospital protected newborn babies from medical errors -- just by changing their wristbands," Sarah Kliff, July 25, 2015

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