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CS&E Project on Smart Sponge Technology

Throughout the history of the CS&E program, results from projects have been published in journals and subject of news articles following graduation of the team. This project from the Perioperative Enterpise is one that stirred interest before the team completes the course in Session 12. This article appeared in Employee Notes on July 21, 2009.

MD Anderson is one of the first hospitals in the nation to begin using new technology to improve patient safety by reducing the number of retained foreign objects following surgery.

As part of our Clinical Safety and Effectiveness educational program, a team of surgeons, nurses and performance improvement experts within Perioperative Enterprise is currently testing the impact and cost-effectiveness of the ClearCount SmartSponge System, which is able to electronically identify and count surgical sponges, towels and laps.

Currently, operating room nurses and technicians manually count the number of these items prior to each case. When a case is completed, they do a recount to make sure the numbers match, minimizing the chance that something is left inside a patient.

With SmartSponge, each item has a radio frequency tag sewn in that uniquely identifies it. When a case is completed, all of the items are dropped in a bucket that counts and identifies each item. If something is missing, the system knows exactly how many and what the items are.

“If it’s determined that something is missing, the system comes with a wand that can be used to scan over the patient, bed or other areas of the room to locate the item,” says Wayne Fischer, Ph.D., perioperative quality analyst. “No technology is 100%, but we can say that this equipment is faster and significantly less fallible than human counting. We always want to test and consider any piece of technology that will bring additional safety to our patients.”

The system is being piloted by Miguel Rodriguez-Bigas, M.D, professor of surgical oncology, and Pamela Soliman, M.D., assistant professor of gynecologic oncology, in their cases. In the coming months, the cost-effectiveness and the return on investment for the product will be estimated by the Clinical Safety and Effectiveness team. After a thorough analysis is completed, and when budgets permit, it will be determined whether this technology will be used throughout operating rooms in the main hospital and in Mays Clinic.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center