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St. Mary Medical Center Adopts Wristband Color-Coding System
Medical Center is among the first in the region to implement the standardized program recommended by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.

LANGHORNE, Pa., November 18, 2008 – St. Mary Medical Center today announced the implementation of “Band Together: Everyone Has a Hand in Patient Safety,” a new universal wristband color-coding system recommended by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) as a safety measure to reduce the potential for medical error. The adoption of this system further demonstrates the St. Mary commitment to quality care and patient safety.

Many hospitals use color wristbands on patients as alerts or reminders for a variety of conditions including fall risks and allergies. However, the colors used and the meaning of those colors often varies from hospital to hospital, which can pose a risk to patient safety.

The five “Band Together” wristband colors will be red, green, yellow, purple, and pink – standardized colors to be used at every hospital that adopts the HAP system. The key to the program’s success isn’t so much the color of the bands as it is the need for all hospitals to utilize the same universal color-coded system in which each standardized color represents a specific medical precaution.

“The physicians, nurses, administrators, and colleagues at St. Mary continually strive to find new ways to improve the quality of care we provide to the community,” comments St. Mary Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Conroy. “This includes doctors who are leaders in their fields of specialty; the latest technological advancements; and facilities that are comfortable, clean, safe, and as eco-friendly as possible. At St. Mary, everything begins and ends with quality and patient safety. We are proud to be among the first hospitals in Bucks County to adopt the HAP-recommended wristband system, and encourage all hospitals to make the switch.”

This system was first created by HAP in response to a 2005 incident report at a Pennsylvania hospital that detailed a near-miss when clinicians almost failed to resuscitate a patient who had been misidentified as do-not-resuscitate by wearing a yellow wristband. The band was put on the patient by a nurse who often worked at another hospital where yellow signified a restricted extremity. Fortunately, that incident was caught in time, yet serves to highlight the issue and the need for a standardized system.

For St. Mary and other hospitals that adopt the HAP system, the color-coding wristbands represent the following:

  • Purple – Allow Natural Death/Do Not Resuscitate (depicted with a peace dove)
  • Yellow – Fall Risk
  • Pink – Restricted Extremity
  • Green – Latex Allergy
  • Red – Allergy (not latex)

“The color-coding program behind ‘Band Together’ simply makes sense,” notes Charles Kunkle, Director of Emergency Services. “There may have been a time when all healthcare workers worked all their hours at one hospital or one doctor’s office, yet today that is not the case. Out of necessity, some people are working shifts in multiple locations. Having this standardized wristband system is a tremendous help to everyone.”

To help St. Mary physicians, nurses, and technicians, as well as patients and their families, understand the wristband system and remember what each color means, St. Mary is launching an awareness program with the theme “Band Together: Everyone has a Hand in Patient Safety” on December 1, 2008. Hospital leadership will provide clinical training of the system to all emergency, inpatient, and outpatient areas. In addition, there will be a range of flyers, posters, buttons, Web information, and newsletter articles. The program also includes pop quizzes with colorful prizes and a large mural – a colorful peacock that is the graphic symbol tied to the theme of the program – which will be colored in by St. Mary colleagues and visitors. The program culminates with a weeklong “Battle of the Bands,” a series of performances by local musical artists staged in the hospital cafeteria with each band representing a wristband color.

“We’re pleased that we are bringing the color-coding system in ‘Band Together’ to St. Mary and are excited to have all of these creative activities planned to help raise awareness of exactly what we’re doing,” notes Kunkle. “The weeklong battle of the bands should be fun for everyone in the hospital, and we ultimately hope that by having different bands from different musical genres representing different colors in the color-coding program, people will ask questions and learn about the program,” he says.