Wristband Formatting and Patient Care

There is more to the patient wristband than meets the eye. As a key method of identifying patients, the wristband provides the foundation for accuracy and safety in the health care system.

Bar coded wristbands are a proven way to identify patients and access the data associated with their care. Bar codes reduce errors and increase accuracy and staff productivity. For a bar coded wristband to be effective, healthcare centers can follow a general-purpose wristband program consisting of “best practices” for wristband formatting.

The following is summarized from a white paper entitled ” Wristband Formatting Best Practices” published by Zebra Technologies.

Repeat 2-D Bar Codes – The 2-D bar code should be repeated along the entire length of the wristband to make scanning easier for the staff. By printing across the band, the 2-D bar code can be read from any direction without adjusting the band. The 2-D symbology is convenient because it can hold a variety of important patient data in a small amount of space.

Use Two Linear Bar Codes – At least one linear bar code should be included to support glucometer readings – current glucometer scanners only support linear bar codes.  Two linear bar codes are better because it makes scanning easier. Typically, Code 128 is the linear bar code of choice because more information can be encoded in a smaller amount of space.

Include Human Readable Text – The patient’s name on the wristband fulfills the Joint Commission Mandate that requires two methods of patient identification: one with a bar code and the other with human readable text of the patient’s name. The name should be as large as possible and in a suitable font to make reading easier.

Include the MRN and FIN – The bar coded information should include the medical record number (MRN) and financial institution number (FIN) along with the patient’s date of birth, age, and sex. Including this additional information helps improve record-keeping processes.

Include Check-digits for security – A check digit at the beginning of the bar codes ensures that only approved patient ID scanners can read and access the patient data, and ensures that the medical staff actually scanned the band at the patient’s bedside.

Include Print Time and other Traceability Text – A time/date stamp and identifying information of who printed the band (in human readable form) adds an extra bit of security. Such data alleviates security concerns when copying the bar code or patient information.

Use Thermal Print-on-Demand Printers – Thermal printers produce clear print quality on all wristbands, ensuring quick and reliable scanning. Unlike laser printers that are designed to print documents, not wristbands or labels, thermal printers are the dominant bar code printing technology used in a variety of industries for critical labeling operations.

By following these best practices for formatting a patient wristband, nurses and clinicians can have the data they need to provide care and meet industry mandates. Is your health care organization following these best practices for formatting your wristbands? Do you need to find out more about how thermal printers can benefit your labeling and wristbanding needs? Then call us today.

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