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Transfusion. 2008 Jul;48(7):1308-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1537-2995.2008.01668.x. Epub 2008 Mar 13.

Improving transfusion safety: implementation of a comprehensive computerized bar code-based tracking system for detecting and preventing errors.

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The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.



To transfuse blood products safely, health care workers must accurately identify patients, blood samples, and the blood components. A comprehensive bar code-based computerized tracking system was developed and implemented to identify and prevent transfusion errors.


A data network, wireless devices, and bar-coded labels were pilot tested before the system was introduced hospitalwide. The system provided a complete audit trail for all transactions. Data from before and after implementation were analyzed.


Incident reports decreased from a mean of 41.5 reports per month in the 6 months before the system was implemented to a mean of 7.2 reports per month after implementation. The blood sample rejection rate decreased from 1.82 percent to a mean of 0.17 percent after implementation. Errors detected by the new system were sorted into misscans, skipped steps, wrong steps, and prevented identification errors (PIEs). Misscans and skipped steps were the most common errors in the first 10 months after implementation. During the final transfusion step, PIEs occurred at the rate of about one per month and scans were omitted approximately 1 percent of the time. Therefore, it is estimated that mistransfusions could occur about once every 100 months on average with the new system.


The bar code-based computerized tracking system detected and prevented identification and matching errors, thereby reducing the proportion of blood samples rejected and increasing patient safety.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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