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The Importance of Being Identified by the Patient Care Team with Two Forms of Identification

Identifying patients accurately and matching the patient’s identity with the correct treatment or service is a critical factor of patient safety.

The most common “wrong patient” treatment error many people may first think of is that of a patient receiving a medication that was intended for another patient. However, wrong patient medication errors can occur for a variety of reasons—and during any point—in a patient encounter.

Patient identification mistakes can lead to errors in medication administration, incompatible blood transfusion reactions, failure to treat a serious illness or disease, medical treatment for erroneous diagnostic lab results, and procedures being performed on the wrong patient.

To prevent instances of misidentification and near-misses, The Joint Commission requires that two identifiers—such as a patient’s full name, date of birth and/or medical identification (ID) number—be used for every patient encounter.

Here is an example: Many patients identify themselves by their middle name or a nickname instead of the name on their patient record. If a caregiver were to assume they have the correct patient based on the name the patient uses versus their legal name, it could create a serious and potentially life-threatening problem when it comes to treatments or procedures.

Likewise, if a patient has the same name as another patient, as in the case of Kimberly Young and Kimberly Young (pictured below), or patients who share names with people in their family and omit the proper suffix (e.g. a Junior or Senior designation), there is also a risk of misidentification. The practice of engaging the patient in identifying themselves and using two patient identifiers (full name, date of birth and/or medical ID number) is essential in improving the reliability of the patient identification process.

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Reduce harmful outcomes from avoidable patient identification errors: Do-the-2. Verify two patient identifiers—every patient, every time.

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To prevent instances of mis-identification and near-miss error, The Joint Commission requires that two identifiers—such as a patient’s full name, date of birth and/or medical identification (ID) number—be used for every patient encounter.