Study Shows Hospital Naming Practices Can Cause Patient Mix Ups, Errors in Newborn Infants

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Doctor examining a pregnant woman

Doctor examining a pregnant woman

What’s in a name? As it turns out, maybe the key to preventing over a third of hospital errors made with newborns.

A new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics reported that the way hospitals refer to newborn babies may cause up to 36% percent of medical errors made with the infants.

The majority of hospitals around the country use a system of generic identifiers to refer to individual newborns rather than the baby’s first name. Known as the “Babyboy, Babygirl” naming convention, infants are referred to as “Babygirl Jones” or “Babyboy Smith.”

This practice is easier for hospital staff because it is time consuming to create multiple sets of paperwork with different names for one hospital visit. Rather than waiting for the parents to name the baby, the newborn is identified immediately by gender and the mother’s last name.

The study identified this practice as a major contributor to hospital errors. Many names look the same to a hurried nurse, and it is possible that many babies with common surnames could actually have the same name on their files. As a result, medications, test results, lab work, and even a mother’s breast milk could be given to the wrong infant.

As part of the study, researchers first spent a year tracking the error rate at two at two neonatal intensive care units in the Bronx, New York which used the “Babyboy, Babygirl” system. After the first year, the researchers had the hospital change the way they identified newborns.

Rather than refer to the babies only by gender and last name, researchers had the hospital add information about the infant’s mother to the babies’ wristbands. For example, if a woman named Sarah Jones had a baby boy, he would be referred to as “Sarahsboy Jones.” After tracking over a thousand infants in the NICU for another year, researchers found that the rate of errors dropped by nearly 40%.

Both the results of this study and years of anecdotal evidence back up the idea that the way many hospitals refer to newborns makes doctors and nurses prone to errors. If something as simple as changing the way infants are named in hospitals can prevent medication errors, surgical errors, or testing errors, then it seems irresponsible not to make the switch.

Mistakes in identification at the hospital can cause serious injuries and even death. When your child is injured by a doctor or nurse’s negligence, you may have a medical malpractice case. Attorney Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., is both a doctor and a lawyer. He and his team of dedicated legal and medical professionals use their expertise to help you get justice after an injury caused by medical negligence.

For a free consultation at the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., call us today at (310) 289-2600 or use our online contact form to have your case reviewed for free.

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