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Bar-coded surgical sponges to increase patient safety

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March 5, 2008

Safety-Sponge System sponge counter

Safety-Sponge System sponge counter

March 6, 2008 We’ve all seen a current affairs program with a victim who found out their doctor left a surgical sponge inside them - it’s a nightmare scenario for all concerned with doctors facing litigation and patients left with potentially life threatening infections ...and the scary thing is that it does actual happen. The Safety-Sponge System from SurgiCount Medical is designed to prevent these types of accidents using bar-code technology to account for all surgical sponges used during medical procedures.

Based on the same low-cost technology already employed by medical institutions for tracking patients, administering medications, and controlling inventory flow, the Safety-Sponge System prevents false correct counts by computerizing all sponge counts in an OR. As each individual sponge has a unique two-dimensional bar code, no one sponge can be counted twice and inadvertently create a false correct count. This essentially eliminates the root cause of retained sponges. As with all modern inventory management systems, the electronic records can easily be imported into a hospital’s paperless patient record system. This information can also be data mined to spot trends and to calculate the measured outcomes that hospitals often have to provide state and national regulatory and accrediting bodies.

The standard method for prevented retained sponges is having nurses individually hand count all sponges that will be used in a procedure – tracking the sponge counts on a white board. At the end of the procedure, all sponges – both dirty and clean – are counted again by hand and reconciled with the original count. This manual method of counting sponges, which is prone to human error, was first established in the 1940’s with little change in the intervening sixty years. Leading patient safety researchers estimate that of the average 4,000 sponges a year are accidentally left behind in patients in the US and at least 88% percent of cases falsely recorded a correct sponge count.

Sponges left behind in patients have the potential to cause deadly infections that can lead to death. The Safety-Sponge System was developed with this in mind and in response to increasing incidents of litigation against doctors such as the recent US case where a plaintiff was awarded $10 million as a result of such an accident.

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