Use of an electronic barcode system for patient identification during blood transfusion: 3-year experience in a regional hospital

JCW Chan, RW Chu, BWY Young, F Chan, CC Chow, WC Pang, C Chan, SH Yeung, PK Chow, J Lau, PMK Leung
Department of Medicine, Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, 3 Lok Man Road, Chai Wan, Hong Kong


OBJECTIVE. To evaluate the use of an electronic barcode system for patient identification
during blood transfusion.

DESIGN. Retrospective study.

SETTING. Regional hospital, Hong Kong.

PATIENTS. For all patients requiring blood transfusion between May 1999 and April 2002, with the exception of patients in the psychiatric wards and the accident and emergency department, a portable, hand-held scan-and-print electronic device was used to verify and document patients’ identity at two critical points of transfusion: blood sampling for the compatibility test and blood administration.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES. Scope of use of the electronic device, cost, effectiveness,
staff compliance, problems and solution for improvement.

RESULTS. In the first 3 years of hospital-wide use of the new device, no incidents of blood transfusion to wrong patients, or wrong labelling of blood samples, occurred with 41 000 blood sampling procedures and administration of 27 000 units of blood. Blood sampling took 6 minutes to complete with the use of the electronic device—similar to that taken by the conventional second-checker system. Among hospital staff, the compliance rate of using the new device approached 90%. Battery problems occurred in 12% of episodes of use of the

CONCLUSIONS. The electronic barcode system was effective in reducing human error related to bedside transfusion procedures. The future goal is to tailor-make a more efficient device with additional functions.


Hong Kong Med J 2004;10:166-71

Key words: Blood transfusion; Patient identification systems

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