A Positive News Story About RFID

A Time magazine article praises ClearCount's smart sponges for their ability to reduce the number of sponges left in patients.
Published: July 14, 2009

Several readers e-mailed me to indicate they liked my response to the biased Globe and Mail article on radio frequency identification (see The Globe and Mail—Misinforming Readers Once Again). Bill James, VP of business development for Seeonic, a Minneapolis-based company that employs radio frequency identification to deliver real-time data and business intelligence regarding store inventory, also sent me a link to a positive article about RFID in Time magazine (see No Souvenirs).

Yes, it’s true. The mainstream media actually published a positive story about ClearCount Medical Solutions, a Pittsburgh, Pa., company that uses RFID to ensure medical sponges are not left inside patients during an operation (see Surgical Sponges Get Smart).

Time quotes Dr. Atul Gawande—a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who has researched medical errors linked to surgical sponges—as saying that at a hospital at which 30,000 operations are performed annually, having three or four sponges left in patients is “not uncommon.” According to Gawande, studies show that automated sponge-counting systems can greatly reduce these errors, and he believes such systems will be standard within five or 10 years.

It’s gratifying to see articles like this. Over time, as RFID consumer applications spread and people become more familiar with the technology, it will be tougher for opponents to demonize it with nightmare scenarios and false information. But in the meantime, articles like the one published in Time help demystify the technology, by illustrating how RFID can be used to benefit people and society as a whole.