Reliable patient identification is essential for safe care, but system factors such as working conditions, technology, organisational barriers and inadequate communications protocols can interfere with identification. This study in the Journal of Patient Safety aimed to explore systems factors contributing to patient identification errors during intrahospital transfers.
The authors observed 60 patient transfer handovers and found that patient identification was not conducted correctly in any of them (according to the hospital policy at every step of the process). The principal system factor responsible was organisational failure, followed by technology and team culture issues. The authors highlight a disconnect between the policy and the reality of the workplace, which left staff and patients in the study vulnerable to the consequences of misidentification.