Shipping Technology Keeps Operating Rooms on Track

The same electronic technology that helps freight companies constantly track their shipping containers and trucks can help surgery centers cut costs, one surgery executive says.
Infrared (IR) and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology allows a surgical center to track a patient electronically from pre-op to the operating room to recovery, says Jim Stilley, chief executive of Northwest Michigan Surgery Center in Traverse City, Mich. The patient wears a badge containing an RFID chip throughout his or her time at the surgery center.
And it’s not just the patients that are tracked. Doctors and nurses wear RFID badges too, Stilley says in an article in Becker’s ASC Review. Nurses can check monitors to see how long a patient has been in the operating room and when he or she leaves, allowing staff to move more quickly to prepare the room for the next surgery, he says.
"If you know the average time a patient stays in the operating room is 20-25 minutes, and you see the patient is at 18 minutes, you know the room will be opening up soon," he says. Staff in the recovery area also can be better prepared for patient arrival, he says.
A 5- to 10-minute drop in time spent in recovery per patient allowed the center to significantly cut staffing, he adds. "When you're talking about 18,000 patients times 10 minutes, that's a lot of time."
RFID technology also can help surgical teams keep track of surgical sponges, a study last year at a Veterans Affairs Department hospital showed. The sponges were equipped with tiny radio-frequency chips and located using an RF detection wand, according to an article in HealthLeaders Media, which reported that all of the chip-equipped sponges were located on patients during the noninvasive test.
One sponge manufacturer, Pittsburgh-based Clear Count Medical Solutions, recently entered a deal with HealthTrust Purchasing Group to supply its RFID-equipped SmartSponge Solutions, according to a news release.
Meanwhile, New York Hospital Queens manages expensive surgical medical devices and supplies using RFID technology from Israel-based LogiTag Systems, RFID News reports.