Hospital Wristbands 2.0

Hospital Beds

A handful of health care professionals are aiming to upgrade hospital wristbands.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on several efforts to drag patient identification bracelets, worn to ensure the administration of proper treatment, into the age of smartphones and Fitbits. Advocates for the upgrade say current ID bracelets collect germs, can be difficult to read, and are unpopular among patients.

‘The Shield’

Laurie Costantino, who inspired her husband, a surgeon, to develop a bracelet alternative, told the Journal, “The wristband always makes you feel that you are sick, that you are a patient.”

Dr. Peter Costantino came up with a shield-shaped adhesive strip that bears all the necessary information and includes a smartphone-scannable QR code. Called, appropriately enough, “The Shield” (not to be confused with the TV series starring Michael Chiklis), Costantino’s invention avoids one of the biggest hassles of paper wristbands — namely, their tendency to get in the way of IVs and other medical equipment.

It’s unclear whether patients would prefer what basically amounts to a large sticker on their skin over a bracelet — or whether “The Shield” would make them feel less like patients.

Henna for your health?

Dr. Paul Allen, a pediatrician, said little kids tend to despise the wristbands. “[They] grab their bracelets saying ‘Off, off, off, off,’” he said. Allen, with colleagues, is developing his own bracelet alternative: a temporary tattoo.

The biggest question for this idea, of course, is whether patients can bring in their own designs or whether they will have to select from options provided by the hospital.

Big Brother, M.D.

Some hospitals are already employing wristbands carrying technology that tracks patients’ whereabouts. Wake Forest Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, uses these bracelets to make sure patients are getting out of the room and exercising enough following surgery. One hopes this function will be used as just a supplement to regular checkups by nurses.

While the wristbands report their movements most everywhere in the hospital, patients are free from monitoring in at least one place. According to the hospital, the bracelets don’t keep track of the amount of time they spend in the bathroom.

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