The following is an excerpt of Xerafy Healthcare whitepaper entitled “RFID for Medical Device and Surgical Instrument Tracking” originally published on Medical Design Briefs on September 1,
Ensuring patient safety and quality of care has become an increasingly technology-reliant process for most healthcare providers. With 4,000 reported “retained surgery items” cases per year in the United States alone, hospitals have turned to automatic identification technology such as RFID to track medical devices and surgical instruments. Leading hospitals like the Mayo Clinic’s Saint Mary’s Hospital in Minnesota and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have deployed RFID to track equipment, surgical instruments, and staff members.
An operating room in China during an onsite institution survey. (Credit: Xerafy)
Automated asset tracking helps improve efficiency and save costs for hospitals, which are tasked with managing hundreds of pieces of equipment across large facilities. Nursing staff may waste precious minutes searching for a wheelchair or IV pump. Surgeries may be delayed because a critical piece of equipment can’t be located. Automated tracking saves time and helps organizations with hard-to-locate equipment, including the all-too-elusive collections of $15,000-a-piece endoscopes.
But this type of tracking also improves patient safety. Because of human error, it can be difficult to accurately account for all of the required surgical instruments before, during, and after a procedure. Accuracy can also be compromised by incorrect instrument lists, untrained personnel, or time constraints. Hand counting these instruments can affect turnover time for the operating room and compromise quality of care.
A Xerafy Autoclavable Dash XS attached to a surgical instrument (Credit: Xerafy)
Accurate medical device tracking also plays a role in accreditation and compliance with government regulations. For instance, in an effort to improve patient safety, the Joint Commission (JCAHO) developed the Universal Protocol to avoid wrong site, wrong procedure, and wrong person surgery errors. Part of the protocol includes verifying the items and surgical instruments required for the procedure using a standardized list.
Those items should be checked before and after the procedure to ensure that everything necessary is already in the operating room before the procedure starts, and to make sure that no surgical instrumentation is lost or left inside the patient after surgery. To prevent these types of errors, all surgical items are recounted and inventoried after a procedure. When an item is missing, staff must locate it before the procedure can be completed, at an average cost of $1,800 per hour in the surgical suite.
In the case of medical device manufacturers, automatic identification technology can help meet the U.S. FDA’s Unique Device Identification (UDI) tracking requirements in a matter of seconds. The UDI program was developed to provide more accurate tracking of medical devices in the healthcare industry in order to speed product recalls and improve patient safety. Starting in 2014, different classes of medical devices are required to include a permanent mark containing a unique identifier and manufacturing information. The number of devices that fall under UDI will be expanded each year.