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Tamper Evident Alert Labels

Colored Alert Bands

Special wristbands that identify a unique alert to help staff members quickly provide care are used in many hospitals around the country. These bands are typically simple, color-coded strips that provide a visual cue to caregivers about a special need, condition or concern relating to the patient. Because there is no standard – either regional or national – for what each color signifies, there are many who shun the practice of using colored bands for this purpose. This can lead to confusion when caregivers work in multiple facilities, move to new locations or have color-blindness. Nevertheless, many hospitals and other facilities find these types of products to be useful and supportive of patient care efforts and they are commonly used.

Among hospitals using color-coded alert bands, there are a number of common
alerts that are distinguished with a separate wristband, including:

  • Allergies
  • Falls Risk
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
  • Diabetic
  • Restricted Extremity
  • Isolation
  • Latex and Phthalate-Free
Most color-coded alert bands – with allergy bands being the exception – do not contain any written or graphic information that further defines the nature of the alert, leaving room for confusion and errors. A survey done in 2005 by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System provides greater insight into the potential risks associated with colored bands. Recently, efforts to ensure that colored wristbands don't cause confusion have engendered new initiatives in Arizona and New York as well. “The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AZHHA) recently rolled out their initiative to standardize alert wristband colors within the state of Arizona.  NurseWeek magazine also deemed the initiative so important they featured an article on Arizona’s efforts (View the NurseWeek article).

Some wristband solutions, like St. John's proprietary Bio-logics wristband effectively mitigate the risks of color-coded alert bands by incorporating printed labels that specify the patient safety alerts directly on the main patient ID band. Color laser printers also can be used to create textual messages that use color for emphasis while retaining actual words or symbols to highlight potential concerns. St John's own color-coded clasps for use with thermal wristbands are also available for consolidating alerts.

Whatever you decide, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of your decision. St. John has the expertise to help you evaluate ways to reduce potential risks while supporting quick and appropriate patient care through use of alerts within your patient identification process.


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