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Olympus Automates Its Endoscope Tester Via RFID

Hospitals are now using the ALT-Pro leak detector to identify the model of endoscope being used, and to then adjust the test settings according to that model's specifications, while also storing data indicating which tests were conducted, by whom and with what results.
By Claire Swedberg
May 27, 2014

A single endoscope is used on multiple patients, and must thus be cleaned and disinfected every time it is employed for medical procedures. What's more, each endoscope must also be tested prior to every use to detect any flaws or damage. Manual testing methods, however, can be prone to human error. This month, medical and surgical procedures technology company Olympus has released its ALT-Pro endoscope leak tester, which employs radio frequency identification to help automate the device's operation.

An endoscopy procedure consists of inserting an instrument into passageways in a patient's body, in order to examine internal conditions. The endoscope itself is a long tube that must remain airtight. If it is functioning properly, the scope can be reused several hundred times within a year. However, after each use, the scope must be reprocessed—that is, it must be cleaned, disinfected and tested for leaks. If it develops a leak, the device must be repaired before being reused—not only because such damage could prevent the device from working effectively, but also because it could cause cross-contamination between patients. Therefore, health-care providers conduct tests to ensure that every endoscope has no leaks. Tools that detect leaks include an air pump that is used when an endoscope is submerged in water, causing the device to emit air bubbles at the site of any damage. Technicians must watch the test process very closely, to ensure they do not detect any bubbles that would indicate a leak.

The ALT-Pro leak detector adjusts its settings based on an endoscope's model number, which is captured by ALT-Pro's RFID reader.
Olympus has developed a dry leak-testing alternative that takes the manual process out of the equation. Instead, an endoscope is attached to the ALT-Pro, which pumps air into the scope and automatically detects the presence of any leaks. A built-in RFID reader, custom-manufactured for Olympus, captures data regarding that test. "The ALT-Pro dry endoscope leak test eliminates the need for water submersion [and] air-bubble observation," says Russel Higgins, the associate product manager of Olympus' Medical Systems Group. Such automation, he explains, "prevents human error, while enhancing efficiency in endoscope reprocessing."

Each endoscope in Olympus' Evis Exera III product line, as well as the previous Evis Exera II product line, comes with a custom-made high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz passive RFID tag with a model number and a unique serial number encoded on it. The tag is integrated into the endoscope's light guide connector. A scope older than the Evis Exera II product line requires an external, pre-encoded tag that users can acquire from Olympus and attach via a strap composed of silicone rubber.

To begin the testing procedure, a technician would first wave the endoscope near the ALT-Pro's built-in reader, which would capture that scope's model and serial numbers. The employee would then wave his or her RFID-enabled badge in front of the reader to record who is conducting the test.

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