College of American Pathologists
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  In wristband, a simple reminder about safety


CAP Today




October 2008
Feature Story

Anne Paxton

A popular exhibitor’s booth at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry meeting in July was the launch pad for the CAP’s new “branding” campaign for proficiency testing, the Laboratory Accreditation Program, and education: “Every number is a life.” And early reviews of the campaign, which consists of posters, brochures, and wristbands, are glowing.

The wristbands, in particular, have been a hit, with meeting goers grabbing them by the handful. “We’ve had people come back and say, ‘These are great, and I’d like to have 6,000 for everybody in our hospitals,’” says George K. Fiedler, vice president and general manager of the CAP’s Division of Proficiency Testing. “We can’t afford to do that for everybody, but we’ve been able to fill some fairly big requests.”

The purpose of the campaign is, first, that “we want to stress that pathologists are an integral, front-line part of the care team,” Fiedler explains. “‘Every number is a life’ clearly resonates with the strategic direction the CAP Board has outlined in its vision for the future of pathology.

“But also, in the past, laboratory people actually went up to the floor and drew samples, where now the medical technologists may never see a patient. So this comes back to saying there’s someone behind that number on a tube you see every day.”

“It’s a very interesting and thoughtful approach to a major patient safety issue,” says Peter J. Howanitz, MD, a member of the CAP Quality Practices Committee. Dr. Howanitz took wristbands from the meeting and distributed them when he returned to work at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY. “Every hospital has been trying to improve the percentage of patients who have correct wristbands, and this really points out how important the wristbands are,” he says.

“I think CAP really nailed it with this campaign,” says Brenda Franks, MT(ASCP), point-of-care testing coordinator for Nebraska Methodist Hospital, Omaha, who describes the wristband program as “real, up close, personal, and simple to understand and implement.”

While laboratory personnel will benefit from it, she is especially enthusiastic about the prospective impact on the emergency department. “Every result for every specimen starts with positive patient and sample identification at the bedside. Our phlebotomy department has a very strict policy about patient identification, and I believe the wristbands are a very visible reminder of the critical importance of patient ID and sample labeling for lab and nonlab staff. I took the wristbands to the service leaders in phlebotomy and ED and said, ‘Personally, I think these should be part of the uniform.’”

The wristband will also drive home the message to patients who see it, Franks says. “I want people to ask questions about why that wristband is there when they come to the hospital.” It’s one more shot at reducing potential errors, she adds.

Another goal of “Every number is a life,” Fiedler says, is to underscore the critical role the College plays in laboratory medicine. For the Laboratory Accreditation Program, a more targeted slogan of the campaign is “Every patient deserves the gold standard.” With that, “we’re trying to be a little more direct, to reach the administrators who are making decisions but may not know what CAP is able to do.”

At CAP TODAY press time, the College was expected to launch on its Web site a forum for patients and health care providers to share their thoughts on the “Every number is a life” campaign. The forum will be available at The site will also provide information on how to order the wristbands and posters.

Anne Paxton is a writer in Seattle.