Most hospitals in Wisconsin now have standardized color-coded alerts for patients.
Many hospitals use color-coded alerts as a way to quickly identify important information about a patient, including his identity, allergies, risk of falling, and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders.
Dana Richardson, with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, says the format varies, but the concept is the same.
"What many hospitals use are wristbands that of course move with the patient throughout the hospital. There are hospitals, though, that use a sticker system that, you know, is attached to some document that is commonly used for the patient like the patient chard or maybe a plaque above the door."
Richardson says after the suggestion of the Hospital Association, hospitals are now standardizing the colors of patient alerts.
"For example, if I worked in more than one hospital, I would know that no matter which hospital I was in the color red always means that a patient has an allergy or the color purple always means that the patient should not be resuscitated in the event that their heart would stop."
Considering the amount of patient transfers and health professionals working in multiple hospitals, Richardson says the Hospital Association pushed for the voluntary industry standard, which reduces the risk of error.
As for those social-causes bracelets such as the yellow Lance Armstrong Livestrong arm-band? Richardson advises: Leave 'em at home. The colors are too confusing.
Richardson says there's no added cost to standardize; it's just a matter of swapping the color definitions. Last year all Wisconsin hospitals were encouraged to implement the standard by March 1, at which time nearly 80 percent have met that goal.
NOTE: According to WHA, Wisconsin and Minnesota have the same standardized set of colors, while Illinois, Michigan and Indiana are currently reviewing their alert systems. Richardson says they hope to eventually see a national color standard.