Theresa English, an elderly woman who had several falls after a stroke, was afraid to fall again while receiving care at Metropolitan Hospital. But thanks to a new program to alert staff about patients at risk of falls, medication errors and allergic reactions, Ms. English wears a simple yellow wristband with the words “Fall Risk” and is reassured she’d be protected from falling again.
"I wore the bracelet while I was in the ICU after my hip surgery and kept it on when I went to the Rehabilitation Unit," said English. "A sign above the bed can't follow me around, but a bracelet goes with me everywhere. I feel safer because it lets everyone know I can fall, even when I'm going from my stretcher to an X-ray table, or getting out of bed and into my chair."
Metropolitan is among the first hospitals in New York State to implement the "Colors of Safety" program and adopt color-coded wristbands to give extra visual warning that can prevent medication errors, allergic reactions and falls. Red bands are for allergy, yellow for fall risk and purple for do not resuscitate. The three colors are part of a nation-wide effort to standardize patient identifiers across all hospital settings.
"Hospitals use many ways to identify patients, including color-coded charts, stickers and binders." said Meryl Weinberg, Metropolitan Hospital’s Executive Director. "Too often, the colors mean different things from hospital to hospital and even within the same hospital. This creates confusion and increases the risk to patients."
Metropolitan, uses the wristbands for its more than 300 hospitalized patients as well as patients in the Emergency Department. The program is scheduled to be implemented in all eleven of New York City's public hospitals by the end of 2008.
"The patients feel good about it," said Pranav Mehta, M.D., Chairperson of the Patient Safety Steering Committee and Chair of the "Colors of Safety" Work Group. "The program not only improves safety, but also helps patients become active participants in their care."
The "Colors of Safety" initiative was developed by the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) and the Continuing Care Leadership Coalition, the long term care affiliate of GNYHA. It is a voluntary program for New York hospitals to ensure accurate and timely identification of patients. Eleven other states throughout the country have adopted the standardized color coding.
The program is part of HHC’s multi-year campaign to become one of the safest healthcare systems in the nation by 2010.