Electronic methods for identifying hospitalized patients can be helpful when patients cannot communicate. These methods generally involve computer technology and may take on several different forms, including the following:
- Radio frequency identification – this method links radio waves with computer chips (located with the patient) that contain detailed clinical information.
- Barcoding – this method requires direct scanning over a barcoded armband that is given to patients upon admission.
- Automated medication dispensing – medications are provided through computerized systems that contain patient information and individually packaged medications.
- Electronic medication administration records – this type of record can also help to reduce medication errors through improved patient identification, especially when available at the patient’s bedside.
Electronic linking of patient-related information is crucial in healthcare systems today due to the complexity of medical care, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine (April 28, 2003; 163(8): 893-900). An example is having laboratory test results available in pharmacy computer systems when patient profiles are displayed. Medication dosages often depend upon laboratory test results, so automatically linking the two can help to prevent errors and save time.