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March 21, 2012 / Blog

Helping Hospitals Select the Right Wristband

By Robert Wickham

Have you ever looked at an article of clothing, and seen the words “One Size Fits All?” Does it make you skeptical? It certainly makes me wonder, and it’s logical that the same apprehension would apply to selecting a wristband.

A few years ago I was invited to a hospital to speak about wristband options, partly because my company offers an almost endless selection of wristband styles from all the leading manufacturers, and partly because this hospital wanted to tap that expertise to standardize on one band across the entire facility. I walked into a room filled with healthcare professionals from every department – ER, maternity, outpatient, lab, radiology, you name it – and frankly, at the beginning of that meeting nobody agreed on anything. Every department had a different need, and things that were important to some, were completely unimportant to others. They had great difficulty in reaching consensus, and some of the stakeholders had to make compromises, and nobody likes to compromise when you’re trying to give every patient the best care possible.

One thing for certain: there is no silver bullet when it comes to wristbands. Case in point: people can’t even agree that it’s called a wristband; in some facilities it’s an “armband” or in the case of infants and neonates it might be a “legband” or a “cuff.”

In a somewhat ironic twist, we’ve even been approached by large veterinary hospitals to provide banding solutions for pets. (Apparently Positive Patient ID isn’t just for people anymore! And, of course, there’s the obvious question: Does that make it a “paw-band?”) The lesson we’ve learned over the years is that when evaluating wristbands, the key is to first look at the application, and then make the recommendations. Long-term rehab hospitals have much different needs than say, a NICU. So we developed the following checklist of considerations for selecting a wristband, and I hope it helps you in your search:

  • Sizes Supported – from bariatric to preemie
  • Patient Comfort – Flexibility of material; sharp edges (comfort for geriatric / preemie)
  • Durability / useful life of the band (and your average stay)
  • Resistance to chemicals, mild cleaners, water
  • Antimicrobial characteristics
  • Ease of use when applying and removing
  • Hypoallergenic characteristics
  • Print quality & barcode support (especially 2-D barcodes)
  • Ability to support dynamic color printing for patient alerts (DNR, allergy, fall risk, etc.)
  • The ability to support printing of a patient photo
  • Closure – clip versus adhesive closure / tamper evidence
  • Does it require the use of a separate label?
  • Infrastructure needs: existing printer technologies, print speeds required, auxiliary drawers, available workspace
  • Downtime considerations – can the band be used in downtime?

The above list has served us well over the years but we all learn something new everyday, so I welcome your input. In case you’re wondering, that hospital I was telling you about standardized on three wristbands, not one. While it’s a noble pursuit and there are lots of reasons to try to standardize on one band, it is also true that one size doesn’t fit all, and that’s OK too.