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How Copenhagen Rigshospitalet Tracks Surgical Instruments and Sterile Items

Surgical Instrument Tracking (SIT) solution saves estimated 31,000 hours for leading Danish hospital.


The 18-month pilot project at Rigshospitalet hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, shows that tracking surgical instruments with RFID could save the hospital 31,000 hours a year in operating room procedures alone while also improving patient safety and providing additional time saving and infection control benefits during sterilization and other processes. Dr. Henrik Eriksen, project director for the RFID trial, announced the results last month during a press conference in Copenhagen.


When surgical trays were prepared for use in the operating room (OR), an RFID reader was used to automatically identify and record all the items that were contained in the tray. The trays were read at several more process points before entering the OR to make sure counts were accurate. Trays were read again before they left the OR after surgery to make sure no surgical instruments were missing, and were read at the hospital’s central sterile processing department to document the sterilization process for each item.


RFID readers can simultaneously identify the 60 to 80 individual items that a surgical tray typically contains. Rigshospitalet previously identified and verified tray contents by bar code scanning.


“RFID UHF technology provides unparalleled speed and accuracy advantages compared to bar code and other RFID technologies for tracking surgical instruments in sterilization processes and operating rooms,” said Dr. Eriksen, “Rigshospitalet is characterized by a very high quality and strong focus on patient safety, and our leadership in technology allows us to also realize the cost benefits of tracking medical devices and the workflow optimization associated with them.”


Rigshospitalet tested the “Tag, Track and Trace” (TTT) surgical instrument tracking system developed by Caretag Surgical, a global RFID solutions company headquartered in Copenhagen. Xerafy’s read-on-metal Dash XS passive UHF RFID tags were attached to a variety of surgical instruments to support item-level tracking and traceability processes. Surgical supply vendors that participated in the trial attached the Dash XS tags to their products using permanent adhesive developed by Dana Lim A/S.


During the trial Rigshospitalet learned that the small tags did not impact the balance of instruments or how surgeons used them. The high-quality tags withstood more than 1,000 autoclave sterilization processes, which most tags could not do because they cannot survive the temperatures, harsh chemicals and pressure.


The trial was considered successful because it validated the business case for tracking medical devices at the item level and showed RFID could increase patient safety, improve the traceability and management of surgical instruments and reduce cost with better efficiency and productivity.


The trial also showed RFID tagging together with Caretag’s Tag, Track and Trace system can save time enough time for hospitals to increase productivity. Approximately 75,000 surgeries are performed each year at Rigshospitalet, and Dr. Eriksen estimates the RFID system saves 31,000 hours at that volume.


The time savings documented above are specific for operating room processes and do not include additional time savings at sterilization centers and other inherent benefits from improved traceability, such as better infection prevention, improved patient safety, inventory savings and reduced asset losses.

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