Banding Together for Patient Safety

Three Colors that will Make Hospitals Safer

COLUMBIA, Mo. Today the Missouri Center for Patient Safety announced its latest project, Banding Together for Patient Safety, a new set of standards for hospital wristbands designed to protect Missouri Patients.

Over 90 percent of Missouri hospitals use colored wristbands as a means of quickly identifying important information about patients. Wristbands are commonly used for alerts such as allergy warnings, fall risks, or do-not-resuscitate orders. However, there is no standard in Missouri offering direction to hospitals as to what color identifies which alert. Because many health professionals work in multiple facilities, they must memorize multiple, sometimes conflicting, meanings for colors.

In medicine, communication is vital. Having inconsistent meanings for these wristbands opens up the possibility for any number of mistakes. In the worst-case scenario, a patient could be mistaken for do-not-resuscitate when, in fact, they may have a latex allergy,said Rebecca Miller, executive director of the Missouri Center for Patient Safety.

A survey by the Center identified nine separate colors used by hospitals in the state, each with multiple meanings across hospitals. Seven separate colors are currently being used by different facilities to identify do-not-resuscitate orders.

To counter this, the Missouri Center for Patient Safety is introducing voluntary standards for Missouri’s hospitals. In the standards, a yellow wristband alerts a fall risk, a red band represents an allergy warning, and purple indicates do-not-resuscitate orders.

A physician, Dr. Timothy Holekamp, brought this problem to our attention and has worked with us to launch the Banding Together project. This is very much an example of our health care professionals being proactive, identifying a potential problem early, and pouncing on it,Miller said.

Missouri is the eighth state to implement wristband standards, and the only state in the Midwest. The colors selected for the Missouri program are consistent with the majority of states who have developed a standard.


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The Center for Patient Safety believes that collaboration and sharing are the best ways to drive improvement. We strive to provide the right solutions and resources to improve healthcare safety and quality.