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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 August 2005, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
Wrist tag 'offers drug warning'
Image of "Brilliant" wristband
If the incorrect drug is used the wristband gives a warning
An electronic wristband could prevent hospital patients being given the wrong drugs with potentially fatal effects.

The "Brilliant" bracelet, designed by Brunel University student Claire Dunne, matches medicines against the wearer's prescription to help to avoid errors.

When an incorrect drug is placed next to an electronic sensor embedded in the bracelet, it gives a visual warning.

The wristband has already been tested at St Anthony's private hospital in Surrey, with promising results.

This would be a good reinforcement that the correct drug and dose had already been given
Ward Sister Helen Groome, who tried out the device

Potentially, it could be rolled out to more hospitals in the future, although the prototype does need more work before this could be possible.

Medication errors are one of the most common medical mistakes and could play a part in hundreds of deaths each year, experts believe.

In England, five out of every 100 oral drug doses in hospitals go wrong, according to the Department of Health, although most errors do not cause harm.

Safety check

The "Brilliant" wristband contains a sensor to scan medicines, and a chip.

The chip is programmed on the patient's arrival at the hospital with their details and drug requirements.

When a drug bottle or pack is placed on the wristband's sensor, this scanner checks the electronic tags built in to the medicine's packaging to make sure it is correct for the patient.

The wristband then informs the nurse if the correct drug has been selected by displaying this information on the wristband's screen.

Each time a dose is given, the date and time are logged in the chip contained inside the wristband. This information can be downloaded to a hospital computer.

Stopping errors

The wristband is re-usable as the information on the chip can simply be wiped.

Claire Dunne tested a prototype along with eight nurses at St Anthony's.

The device was able to spot when the incorrect drugs were being selected by the nurse, and tell the nurse what dose should be prescribed via text on the display window.

Ward Sister Helen Groome, who tried out the prototype, said: "It was easy to use."

She said it would help to avoid mistakes such as giving the wrong dose or repeating a dose that had already been given.

"This would be a good reinforcement that the correct drug and dose had already been given to a patient and reduce the chance of overdosing in error."

The National Patient Safety Agency's joint chief executives, Sue Osborn and Susan Williams, said: "We are currently working on safer patient identification such as wristband identification and checking procedures.

"We will communicate with the whole health service and other interested parties such as the healthcare industry when ways of avoiding mismatching errors are developed further."

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