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Objective: To describe the effect of interventions designed to improve patient identification (PI) during pathology collection in the ED. Methods: A prospective before-and-after intervention study was conducted between June 2009 and June 2010 in a regional ED in Queensland, Australia. Interventions aimed to improve PI and specimen labelling, and consisted of: (i) education alone; and (ii) education plus an armband scanner that voice-prompted collector behaviour. Main outcomes measured included: frequency of correct key behaviours (KBs) during specimen collection, pathology integrity errors and cost of interventions. Results: Data from 282 ED pathology collections were analysed (before: n = 115, after with education: n = 95, after with education plus armband scanner: n = 72). KBs for PI and labelling improved significantly following education plus armband scanner use. Application of armbands before sample collection increased (36% vs 90%, P < 0.001), as did asking the patient to state their name (25% vs 93%, P < 0.001) and date of birth (22% vs 93%, P < 0.001). These results were similar, albeit less pronounced, when the effect of education only was assessed. No primary patient misidentification was detected in this small study. The annual costs for a hospital to adopt the education programme with and without the armband scanner were $104 045 and $5330 respectively. Conclusion: ED staff had poor behaviours for identifying patients and labelling pathology specimens before intervention. These safety behaviours were considered an assumed skill. Education alone improved critical KBs markedly that was further augmented by the armband scanner. The cost to adopt education alone is relatively low compared to the addition of armband scanner technology.

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