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Could Waiting to Name Your Newborn Lead to a Medical Error?

For many parents, choosing a name for a new child can be a challenging process. As a result, many are simply known as “baby boy” or “baby girl” during their first days of life.

While delaying the naming process gives parents time to select the perfect moniker, it presents challenges for hospital staff. According to a new a study, it may even increase the risk of medical error.

The study took place at a New York City hospital that recently changed the way it identifies newborn patients in its neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). As detailed by Reuters, the old system used generic IDs that included only the infant’s gender and last name, such as “babyboy Williams.” The new IDs also incorporated the mother’s first name, such as “Suesboy Williams.”

Researchers examined the retract and reorder rate, which refers to when doctors cancel an order for tests, procedures or medications for one newborn baby and then quickly place the same order for a different patient, for both systems. They found that the error rate significantly declined using the more descriptive IDs. For every 100,000 orders, the overall retract and reorder rate fell from 59.5 with the old system to 37.9 with the new IDs.

“We call this an ‘oops’ measurement because these are near misses, and the good news here is that the findings suggest hospitals can decrease these errors by more than a third by switching to a new naming system,” said lead study author Dr. Jason Adelman.

As the study authors note, medication errors are one of the most common medical mistakes in NICUs. In 11 percent of the incidents, patient misidentification is to blame. The risk is compounded when patients in the NICU have similar last names and birth dates.

If you or someone you love has suffered from medical negligence, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.