Benefiting from Bedside Specimen Labeling

06 July 2018 0 views

Why Label at Collection?

Accurate labeling at the point of care can prevent many specimen identification errors and resultingproblems. Specimen labeling errors accounted for 55.5 percent of identification errors in a studyconducted by the College of American Pathologists.8 Specimen labeling, the most common error,occurred more than twice as much as the second-most common cause. In addition, an analysis ofadverse events that occurred at the Veterans Health Administration from 2000 to 2008 revealedthat specimen labeling errors during the collection process accounted for nearly 37 percent of theadverse events.9 By accurately identifying samples, hospitals can eliminate a leading source ofidentification errors.

The more time and distance between when labels are produced and when they are applied, thegreater the chances they will be put on the wrong sample. For example, prior to converting fromcentralized printing to bedside specimen labeling, the staff at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood,N.J., identified 63 steps in its phlebotomy collection process where errors could occur. Labeling specimens at the patient bedside eliminated 44 of these steps from theprocess. After implementing the bedside labeling system, The ValleyHospital reported zero misidentified patients and specimens, zeroincorrect specimen containers and zero unnecessary phlebotomies aftersix months and 8,000 phlebotomies.

The hospital also analyzed specimen identification errors and found thatcarrying multiple labels into a patient room was the leading cause of specimenmislabeling. Labeling away from the bedside was the second-leading cause.

The reasons for creating processes to prevent specimen labeling errorsare clear. So is the value of bedside labeling for specimen identification.Numerous other studies and anecdotal results have shown the practice tobe highly effective. Becton Dickinson reported that studies by two of thehospitals that installed its system for positive patient identificationand specimen collection found nearly a 100 percent reduction in specimencollection errors.11 Similarly, after Beloit Memorial Hospital implementeda specimen collection verification system, the hospital experienced asignificant decline in wrong-patient errors related to specimen collection.12Many other hospitals and laboratories have reported significant errorreductions related to barcode-based patient and specimen identificationand point-of-care labeling.


Barcoding is a proven, accurate and reliable way to identify samples. Printing and applying specimencontainer identification labels at the point of care promotes patient safety by improving sampleidentification and reducing opportunities for errors to enter the process. It also satisfies The JointCommission’s National Patient Safety Goal, and by encoding patient identifiers in a machine-readablebarcode, protects patient privacy in accordance with HIPAA. Point-of-care labeling also saves time forphlebotomists, nurses and technicians who collect samples because they don’t have to return to thelab to pick up the labels, while streamlining workflow in the lab by eliminating the need for relabeling.

Zebra Technologies is a leading manufacturer of specialty thermal and laser printing solutions,including wireless, mobile, high-volume and wristband printers designed to meet the unique needsof the healthcare market. Zebra solutions help healthcare organizations reduce errors and increaseproductivity while protecting patient safety and privacy. Now is the time to provide your patients avirtual voice — so you can work with the patient and continue to provide safe treatments and a caringatmosphere. Information about Zebra barcode, card and RFID products can be found at

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