Effort To Standardize U.S. Hospitals’ Use of Color-Coded Wristbands on Patients Underway

In a California Healthline Special Report by Deirdre Kennedy, experts discuss potential benefits and pitfalls of color-coded wristbands, which hospitals nationwide use to help alert staff to problems like drug allergies or indicate patient preferences, such as “Do not resuscitate.”

The problem is that hospitals use a wide variety of colors with little standardization for what those colors mean.

The Special Report includes comments from:

  • Jan Emerson, vice-president for external affairs at California Hospital Association;
  • Beth Feldpush, senior associate director for policy at the American Hospital Association; and
  • Niraj Sehgal, an internist and patient safety expert at UC-San Francisco.

Emerson said, “It’s really important to understand that color-coded wrist bands are not the way of determining what a patient’s risk factors are for allergies or falls or that sort of thing. The clinicians should always be looking in a patient’s chart and the wristbands are sort of a secondary method for communicating in a fast paced environment.” (Kennedy, California Healthline, 10/15).

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