The Joint Commission
Monday 6:16 CST, February 8, 2016

Standards FAQ Details

National Patient Safety Goals (NPSG) (Hospital and Hospital Clinics / Hospitals)

Two Patient Identifiers - NPSG - Goal 1 - 01.01.01
Current | December 09, 2008

Intent of using two patient identifiers

Q. What is the intent of the requirement for using two identifiers? 

A.The intent here is two-fold: first, to reliably identify the individual as the person for whom the service or treatment is intended; second, to match the service or treatment to that individual. Therefore, the two patient/client/resident-specific identifiers must be directly associated with the individual and the same two identifiers must be directly associated with the medications, blood products, specimen containers (such as on an attached label), other treatments or procedures. 

Armband for patient identification

Q. What do you mean by two patient identifiers?

A. For those patients with armbands, we're thinking patient name and ID number compared to the order/MAR would be the two identifiers. Yes, that is acceptable. The two identifiers may be in the same location, such as a wristband. It is the person-specific information that is the “identifier,” not the medium on which that information resides. Acceptable identifiers may be the individual's name, an assigned identification number, telephone number, or other person-specific identifier. Electronic identification technology coding, such as bar coding or RFID, that includes two or more person-specific identifiers (not room number) will comply with this requirement.  Please remember that active patient involvement is also required in EP 1.

Armband not attached to the patient

Q. Is it acceptable practice to lay the patient armband on the bedside table or tape it to the bed if the patient is alert and is able to state their identifying information?
A. Although The Joint Commission does not require the use of arm bands for patient/resident identification, if you do choose to use arm bands as a means of conveying patient/resident identification information, the band must be attached to the patient/resident at all times. Simply placing it on the bedside table or taping it to the bed would not be acceptable if there is any reliance on the information contained on it.

Nutrition services identification

Q. Does requirement 1A apply to the delivery of patient meals and snacks?
A. At a minimum, it applies whenever the patient/resident requires a special diet or the meal/snack that is being delivered is part of a special diet. It may be easier to implement this requirement consistently by applying it to all patients/residents receiving diets or snacks.


Labs accredited by agencies other than The Joint Commission

Q. EP 6 says “Containers used for blood and other specimens are labeled in the presence of the patient.” Our hospital is Joint Commission accredited but we have another accrediting agency for our lab. Does this requirement apply to us?
A. Yes. For any specimen collection that occurs in an accredited organization, NPSG.01.01.01 applies. Pre-labeling of specimen containers, also known as batch processing, is a common approach which is assumed to improve efficiency but can increase the risk for patient/treatment/specimen mis-identification. Pre-labeling can be done on a patient-specific basis, but if not performed in the presence of the patient it will not be acceptable under this requirement.


Maintaining the identity of samples

Q. The laboratory version of this requirement refers to maintaining the identity of samples. Does this apply to specimens obtained in our hospital (which is Joint Commission accredited) by staff from our laboratory (which is not accredited by The Joint Commission)?
A. In the Laboratory manual, EP 7 says, “Processes are established to maintain samples’ identity throughout the pre-analytical, analytical and post-analytical processes.” This is a requirement for the laboratory itself and, therefore, applies only to Joint Commission accredited laboratories.


Outpatient settings

Q. A lot of our outpatients—those who come for a lab draw and other simple procedures, our home health patients and our ambulatory care patients—do not have an armband. Would asking them their name and comparing it to any paperwork we have constitute two identifiers?
A. No. In the requirement for using two identifiers, the term "identifier" refers to the specific items of information by which the care recipient can be identified rather than the source of the information. So, comparing the individual's stated name with the name on the requisition would be one identifier. Examples of a second identifier for a care recipient without an armband might be date of birth, social security number, home address, or phone number.


Same identifiers throughout the organization

Q. Do the same two identifiers have to be used throughout the organization?

A. No. Ideally a standardized or similar approach would be used throughout the organization; however different identifiers may be used in different settings as long as their use is consistent with the intent of this requirement as stated above. However, the identifiers should be consistent within each setting, not just whatever the individual practitioner or staff person wishes to use.


Orders for Care

Q. Does the two-identifier requirement apply to orders for care? Does it apply to reporting critical test results?

A. Yes, to both questions. These are important, safety-related aspects of patient care, which for purposes of this requirement, fall under the EP for the use of two identifiers for “other treatments or procedures.”


Written orders and CPOE

Q. Does the two-identifier rule apply to writing orders for treatment? What about computerized prescriber order entry (CPOE) systems?

A.Yes; the requirement for two identifiers applies to writing orders, including use of CPOE. A common “wrong patient” error is the recording of orders in the wrong patient’s record. In most cases, the error is recognized by another caregiver; however, there are a significant number of such cases in which the error is not recognized and the patient receives an inappropriate treatment. Similarly, “wrong patient orders” can be an unintended consequence of using some CPOE systems that do not provide adequate safeguards including at least two identifiers to assure correct patient identification before accepting orders.1

1 Ross Koppel, PhD; Joshua P. Metlay, MD, PhD; Abigail Cohen, PhD; Brian Abaluck, BS; A. Russell Localio, JD, MPH, MS; Stephen E. Kimmel, MD, MSCE; Brian L. Strom, MD, MPH. Role of Computerized Physician Order Entry Systems in Facilitating Medication Errors. JAMA. 2005;293:1197-1203.


Temporary names

Q. How would you identify an injured ER patient who was unresponsive and could not communicate with others?

A. Such patients are usually assigned a temporary “name” (e.g., John Doe) and an E.D. number or medical record number. These identifiers could then be used to identify the patient and match against specimen labels, medications ordered for the patient, or blood product labels. In this process, formal identification of the patient should occur as soon as possible and once confirmed this identifying information should be used instead of the temporary identification.


Home care identification

Q. What about the home care situation? Do we need to keep checking two identifiers each time we give a medication?

A. The goal is to ensure accurate identification of care recipients. In the home care setting, this is much easier and less prone to error than in other settings. Certainly, at the first encounter, the requirement for two identifiers is appropriate in a literal sense. Thereafter, and in any situation of continuing one-on-one care where the nurse "knows" the individual, one of the identifiers can be direct facial recognition. In the home, the correct address (an acceptable identifier when used in conjunction with another person-specific identifier) is also confirmed.


Behavioral health identification

Q. We are a behavioral health care facility. The individuals in our care do not always wear wristbands. What other methods are acceptable for the “two identifiers”?
A. A common approach in these situations is to include the individual’s photograph in the clinical record for purposes of visual identification by staff. For residential care settings that may serve only a few individuals, such as a group home, in which the individual may stay for an extended period of time, where there is stability of the staff and client/resident populations, and the individuals receiving care are well-known to the staff providing that care, we would accept visual recognition as an identifier and focus the survey of this requirement on the use of two identifiers for high risk interventions—perhaps for certain high-risk medications, like methadone—to ensure “matching” of the treatment to the individual. In other words, is the medication adequately identified (with two identifiers) for the specific individual who is to receive it? For high-risk interventions or in settings with less stable staffing and short length of stay, we would expect the full "two identifier" requirement to be followed.


Active involvement of the patient or responsible caregiver

Q: Are there any exceptions for active involvement of the patient or responsible caregiver? What if the patient is sleeping? Does this mean the patient’s nurse needs to help identify non-communicative or confused patients whenever other healthcare workers, such as lab and respiratory therapy, use two patient identifiers?
A: The primary purpose of this requirement is to ensure the safety of patients during their care, including prevention of medication, diagnostic and treatment errors. For those patients who are sleeping, are non-communicative or are confused, each organization decides how they will assess these patients and when active involvement of the patient or responsible caregiver is necessary. Such decisions and expectations must be clearly communicated to staff, and should be based on promotion of patient safety, not convenience or workflow.


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