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In clinical areas, asking for information multiple times can annoy patients. “We frequently get asked questions like, ‘Why can’t you retain this information for the future?’ or ‘Don’t your computer systems talk to one another?’” says Catherine Shull Fernald, DNP, RN, RNC-OB, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer for acute care at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, DE.
Unlike in registration areas, where redundant questions are asked often, the queries are intentional. Their purpose is to prevent patient safety disasters, such as giving medication or performing a test or procedure on the wrong patient.
In clinical encounters, patient identity needs to be verified repeatedly for safety. “Along any process, there could be a misstep, which could lead to unwanted consequences,” Fernald notes.
A label might be misplaced while someone is donating blood. Or, a donor might have fainted, causing a disruption with increased risk of an error. “By asking the donor name and date of birth at every step in the process, even if the technician is the same person throughout, it reduces and potentially eliminates any chance of error,” Fernald explains.
Registrars ask for people’s name, spelling, address, date of birth, and insurance information — often more than once. They do apologize, but at the same time they explain why. “I am sorry for the inconvenience. We ask multiple times to verify your information as a way to ensure your safety at every step in the process of caring for you. By asking each time, we ensure it is the most current information, and we are able to prevent or correct any mistakes.”
Registrars respond “patiently and respectfully,” Fernald says. “Our patients have the right to understand what we’re doing and why.”