When we do our jobs every day, some tasks that are routine or standardized can become second nature to us, almost robotic. This is when errors are more likely to happen. Errors like mislabeling lab specimens can lead to re-draws and increased costs or worse: misdiagnoses, inappropriate care planning, delayed care, and wrong treatments. At Intermountain, we’re seeing increases in mislabeled lab specimens.
There has been an increase in mislabeled lab specimens at Intermountain recently. To avoid lab specimen labeling errors, take one additional step—the final check. It doesn’t take long to do. After printing the specimen label with the patient’s first and last name and date of birth, explaining the collection process, and validating the label and collected specimen container with the patient, the final check calls for reading out loud the last three digits in the patient’s identification number (FIN or MRN).
Studies have shown doing the final check reduces the number of mislabeled blood specimens by more than 90%. Taking a simple extra step in validating patient information can save you from needing to redraw, and more so, can save patient lives.
Remember the full process for confirming lab specimen labels:
- Identify Patient: Verify the patients full name and date of birth (DOB).
- Collect Specimen: Explain the collection process to the patient.
- Label and Confirm Specimen: Once the sample is collected, in the exam room, show patient the labeled specimen(s) and confirm with the patient that the sample and name are theirs.
- The Final Check: One final step can provide reassurance that the lab specimen is indeed the patient’s. Do this by saying, out loud, the last three digits of the patient’s FIN or MRN number on the labeled specimen, if available. (FIN numbers are used in Intermountain hospitals and MRN numbers are used in Utah Medical Group and outpatient settings, for example). Then, confirm what you just said, with the same last three digits on the patient’s armband or lab requisition form. Saltzer and Intermountain Nevada clinics use other methods to check specimen label accuracy.