How do you track 1,000s of Surgical Instruments? Takeaways from SIT implementations at the point-of-care

More hospitals around the world look at implementing Surgical Instruments Tracking (SIT) solutions. With each project comes the same challenge: How do you add tags to 1,000s of surgical instruments and make your existing inventory fully trackable?

Xerafy CEO Dennis Khoo shares some insights on how OR and CSSD teams are finding solutions on their way to saving hours in surgical counts and getting better at eliminating secondary infections and other risks to patient safety.

How do Hospitals approach Surgical Instruments Tracking implementation projects?

We see a number of healthcare providers in the US and Europe with legacy projects relying on barcodes tags, laser etching and tray tracking. They are now in the market looking for upgrades and solutions to the operational challenges they meet in the field with these early days SIT technologies. On the other hands, clients in Asia in particular have less legacy projects to take care of and as a consequence can implement faster.

Eventually, all our clients start with a pilot project before actually scaling up. They want to qualify each component of the SIT solution for their specific OR and CSSD processes and parameters, develop the required IFUs, start tagging their instruments, train their teams, capitalize on Return-on-Experience, etc…

What are the technological challenges Hospitals face with current solutions?

Some early-days solutions helped the more visionary healthcare providers experiment with SIT tracking, for instance with barcodes or working on a tray-level only. They also had to face some very operational limitations, which would explain why none of these approaches took the market by storm.

An example we hear often from Hospitals is that while you can laser-etch tiny barcodes onto a surgical instrument, you still need to be able to see the code to scan it. This excludes soiled instruments and remains a manual process as you can’t bulk-read dozens or hundreds of instruments at once. And then the barcodes usually wear off after a number of reprocessing cycles. That’s also the case with labels or band attachments – they fall off too easily, making them unsuitable for this environment.

As for welding tags onto instruments, OR usually rejected this approach up to this point as most tags added were too big and would affect the usability of the instrument or even void the warranty on the medical device.

How can a Hospital tag 1,000s of existing surgical instruments?

Each instrument has to be individually tagged for the solution to fully deliver (not to mention UDI compliance) and this is definitely a challenge for any Hospital. They are looking for practical and cost-effective solutions, offering fast turnaround times without leaving the premises, while achieving high levels of quality and durability through some degree of automation. Eventually, the tagging technology and method need to work for any size and type of instrument, in order for the tracking solution to be able to fully deliver.

Our RAIN RFID technology is unique for the smallest size of the tags and their unique ability to withstand autoclave temperatures as well as the combination of biological and chemicals agents typical of a reprocessing workflow.

Our role involves providing information and guidance and we find ourselves increasingly working alongside the healthcare providers with a very proactive approach. We patented new types of tag attachments involving specialised glue and welding that respect the instrument’s structural integrity and comply with manufacturer’s’ warranty.

Will Hospitals be able to source surgical instruments that are RFID-ready?

We think so and this is another step we took recently with our partner Novo Surgical . They incorporate Xerafy’s technology directly into the design of the surgical instruments, which is really the future of SIT, making the surgical instruments tracking-ready, directly at the point of manufacturing.

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Gelpi Retractor – Standard Version vs. Smart Version

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Rochester-Pean Forceps – Standard Version vs. Smart Version

And in May, we presented our very first prototypes of smart RFID-enabled surgical instruments at the IAHCSMM 2017 conference in Nashville .

What has been the response to these Smart Instruments prototypes?

We spoke with numbers of surgeons, scrubs, technicians, and their response was overwhelmingly positive: They immediately see the value and are eager to test them. This is the kind of reward you get for being first in a market.

We are still talking about prototypes for now and it will take more rounds of R&D with Novo Surgical  and tests in the field with healthcare providers before they come to a back table in your OR. But we believe this is the vision the market was waiting for.

What’s next for Surgical Instrument Tracking?

When everybody talks Analytics, Big Data, algorithms, A.I. data pool, etc, you also want to see how Hospitals can get more out of all the data they capture with their SIT.

For now, a SIT solution can reduce preventable medical errors and infections, and that’s driving the market for surgical instrument tracking. Using our technology saves hospitals thousands of hours in manual counting and inventory management, translating into hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

Join the conversation: Where does your Hospital need most support with its Surgical Instruments Tracking project?


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