Significant reduction of laboratory specimen labeling errors by implementation of an electronic ordering system paired with a bar-code specimen labeling process

Peter M. Hill, Darren Mareiniss, Paula Murphy, Heather Gardner, Yu Hsiang Hsieh, Frederick Levy, Gabor D. Kelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Study objective: We measure the rate of emergency department (ED) specimen processing error reduction after implementation of an electronic physician order entry system paired with a bar-coded specimen labeling process. Methods: A cohort pre- and postintervention study was conducted in the ED during a 61-month period ending September 2008 in a large urban teaching hospital. Historically, laboratory order and requisition processing was done by hand. Interventions included implementing an ED-specific electronic documentation and information system, which included physician order entry with patient verification through bar-coded wristbands and bar-coded specimen labels. The main outcome measure was processing error rate, defined as unlabeled/mislabeled/wrong patient specimen or requisition. Pre- and postimplementation data were tabulated monthly and compared in aggregate by χ2 test. The contribution of ED error to total institution specimen error was also calculated. Results: Of the 724,465 specimens collected preintervention, 3,007 (0.42%) were recorded as errors versus 379 errors (0.11%) of 334,039 specimens collected postintervention, which represents a 74% relative and 0.31% absolute decrease (95% confidence interval 0.28% to 0.32%). The proportion of institutional errors contributed by the ED was reduced from 20.4% to 11.4%, a 44% relative and 9.0% absolute reduction (95% confidence interval 7.7% to 10.3%). Subanalysis revealed that the majority of continued errors occur when the physician order entry/bar-code system could not be used (eg, blood bank or surgical pathology specimens). Conclusion: Combining an electronic physician order entry with bar-coded patient verification and electronic documentation and information systemgenerated specimen labels can significantly reduce ED specimen-related errors, with sizable influence on institutional specimen-related errors. Continued use of hand labeling and processing for special specimens appears inadvisable, though the cost-effectiveness of this intervention has not been established.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)630-636
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Volume56
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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