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Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association

Virginia's Color-Coded Alert System Standardization Initiative

Virginia Toolkit
(Vendor forms updated June 4, 2009)

Submit the Commitment Form
We ask hospitals, health systems and nursing homes participating in this initiative to sign the commitment form so we can provide up-to-date information to you and to maintain an accurate list of participating facilties to share with the public.

Virginia Hospitals, Health Systems and Nursing Homes Committed to Standardization

Questions and Answers on Implementing Color-Coded Alert System Standardization in Virginia Facilities (updated March 19, 2009)

Various color-coded alert systems are used in hospitals and nursing homes to identify status and risk such as do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders, allergies and fall risks. Colors to identify at-risk patients often vary among hospitals, health systems and nursing homes. Given that many health care workers practice at more than one facility and that patients may be transferred between institutions, there is a potential for confusion and possible medical error.

A logical solution is to standardize colors statewide. Arizona was one of the first states to successfully implement statewide standardization of color-coded wristbands; within 20 months, Arizona standardized color-coded wristbands in 93 of its 123 hospitals. Since the success of the Arizona initiative, 38 states have implemented or are in the process of standardizing color-coded wristbands. The trend for color-coding focuses on three alerts: DNR, allergy and fall risk. Virginia followed the nationwide standard of using purple for do-not-resuscitate, red for allergy and yellow for fall risk, and is expanding upon wristband standardization to include all alert systems.

VHHA formed a task force in 2008 to develop an implementation plan and the materials necessary for successful statewide standardization. Some states have not included long-term care facilities in their original standardization initiatives, notwithstanding the problems that may occur between delivery of patients from a long-term care facility with its own color-code policy to a hospital that uses different colors and vice versa. Virginia’s hospitals and nursing homes have a strong partnership when working on health care issues, and it was apparent from the outset that for standardization to succeed in Virginia, long-term care facilities must be included in the process. VHHA worked with the Virginia Health Care Association, the Virginia Association of Nonprofit Homes for the Aging and their nursing home members on Virginia's implementation plan.

Virginia officially launched this standardization on February 25, 2009, with an event in Richmond. Roughly 150 representatives of hospitals, health systems and nursing homes around the state attended. Speakers included Craig Clapper (PDF) and Spence Byrum (PDF).  

The materials on these pages will help facilities as they move forward on this initiative.

VHHA Liaison

Sheila Gray, assistant vice president, (804) 965-1212, sgray@vhha.com
VHHA thanks the VHHA Color-Coded Wristband Standardization Task Force for its assistance with this initiative. Please feel free to contact any task force member with questions.

Wristband logo provided courtesy of the Missouri Center for Patient Safety, http://www.mocps.org/.

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