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Shimane University Hospital Tags Surgical Tools, Cuts Costs

An RFID-enabled surgical instrument tracking system from KRD Corp. allows the hospital, as well as Wakayama Medical Center, to boost efficiency and eliminate errors.
By Claire Swedberg

In the surgical room, staff members typically use another SIMSAFE reader to capture the IDs of all tagged tools to be used on a given patient, thereby ensuring that there are no mistakes. The surgical staff can read each tag as the tools are used during the procedure. Once the operation is complete, all tool tags are read once more, and if any item is discovered to be missing, the SIMSAFE software displays an alert.

Following surgery, Sawa says, the system tracks the tools through the cleaning and sterilization processes. A staff member reads the tools' tags via a reader connected to an Advantech terminal as they are washed. Later, in the sterilization section, a worker uses the M3 Mobile handheld with a Bluetooth connection to scan the container tag, as well as an RFID location tag installed at the sterilization section, in order to prove that sterilization did, in fact, occur. In that way, if an employee neglects to sterilize or wash an item, the software detects that error and issues an alert to the appropriate staff, instructing them to locate that instrument and complete the necessary processes.

The system has provided not only error reduction but efficiency improvements, Sawa reports. Before the RFID system was installed, two to three workers needed five to six hours to prepare the equipment for patients scheduled for surgery on any given day. That amount of work time has been reduced by 75 percent, he says, adding, "The total work reduction for the operation and sterilization departments results in a savings equal to or greater than $300,000 per year."

By analyzing the data amassed via the SIMSAFE system during the past year, the hospital has not only been able to reduce the number of surgical instruments it needs, but has also found that it can perform a greater number of surgical procedures per day. "Since the working time can be shortened by introducing the system," Sawa says, "it is possible to increase the number of surgical operations without increasing the staff."

What's more, Sawa notes, the technology improves the efficiency of emergency surgery preparation, since employees can very quickly locate the necessary tools.

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