Wireless Technology Prevents Medical Errors

A left behind medical sponge is a major issue that can happen during surgery. It can cause patient complications or infections down the road. But now, new wireless technology in the O-R is preventing that.

There's a new type of medical sponge with a tiny RFID chip inside. That means doctors can keep track of where it is at all times during surgery.

A large surgery can require hundred of medical sponges and every one of them must be accounted for before a patient can leave the O-R.

"One of the errors that can happen to patients is that a sponge or a gauze will be left behind during the surgery," said Dr. William M. Barron of UC Irvine Medical Center.

Surgical teams keep exact counts, but if there's a chance a sponge is missing, patients must stay under and sometimes even wait for x-rays until doctors find it.

"That happens on very rare occasions we want it never to happen" added Barron. RFID technology is now making it easier to keep track of these sponges.

Dr. Barron said "This virtually eliminates any possibility of leaving a sponge or gauze in a patient".

Each sponge contains a tiny chip and nurses can simply wave a wand over the body and detect the location of a sponge instantly.

David Palmer CEO of ClearCount Medical Solutions said, "We automate what is now air prone manual process."

The idea for an RFID system actually came from an operating room nurse, who saw potential in the technology.

"We're extremely excited about bringing this technology, to market and believe that it's really going to improve patient safety across the U.S." said Palmer.

U-C Irvine Medical Center was one of the first in the nation to adopt the new system. Now they are relying on technology that really counts.

"It works beautifully for the nurses because it doesn't interrupt their work flow and now that we've been using it eight months they find it a very easy to use technology. And a technology which gives them comfort that a gauze or a sponge is not remaining behind inside a patient," Dr. Barron explained.

As you might expect, the technology is a bit more expensive, but its worth it if it gets people in and out of surgery faster and with less risk. If you'd like to learn more about ClearCount's RFID technology click here.