Furr & Henshaw
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New procedure reduces blood sample errors

South Carolina residents may be aware of the increasing volume of medical malpractice claims due to preventable medical mistakes. While medical errors can occur for a number of reasons, a fair number of mistakes occur blood samples are being taken.

This is due to the fact that blood samples must be double-checked against a nine or 10digit number. Studies show that people make more mistakes when they have to remember four or more numbers. This means the potential for misreading high numbers is greater, even by the most careful individuals. As a result, blood samples may be mislabeled. Mislabeling of blood samples is a serious problem. A mislabeled sample can result in life-threatening consequences, including death in some cases.

To combat this issue, a new procedure called "The Final Check" has been put in place in several South Carolina hospitals. The procedure requires a person taking a blood sample to double check the last three numbers of the patient's medical records bracelet against the last three numbers of the blood vial's label. The person must recite the numbers out loud to check them. If any of the numbers do not match, the sample is immediately destroyed, and everyone in the blood labeling and storage process is promptly notified.

The new procedure has received positive feedback from members of the medical community. The number of mislabeling errors has gone down significantly since implementation of the procedure. In one hospital, mislabeled blood occurrences went down from an average of five per month to zero.

The new procedure has several benefits. It does not cost hospitals any money to implement and it requires minimal extra effort by staff. Managing the procedure is also easily accomplished due to its simple nature. One South Carolina hospital hopes to expand "The Final Check" into areas beyond blood samples, such as urine samples and throat cultures.

After witnessing the success of The Final Check program in South Carolina, more hospitals are being encouraged to adopt the procedure. Medical professionals and patients alike are hopeful that this procedure will prove to be a successful step toward increasing overall patient safety and reducing medical errors.

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