Shahid Akhter, editor, ETHealthworld, spoke to Dr. M.I. Sahadulla, Group Chairman and Managing Director, KIMSHealth to know about the best practises his network of hospitals has implemented to reduce the risks associated with surgical supplies being left behind.
Innovations impacting healthcare
I believe that innovation has been a game-changer in various industries, revolutionising the way we work and live for a long time now. While healthcare has traditionally been slower to embrace innovation, the landscape has witnessed remarkable advancements, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic acted as a catalyst for healthcare innovation, with notable progress achieved in a relatively short span of time. The rapid development and distribution of vaccines serve as a prime example of this accelerated innovation. Typically, vaccine development takes several years, but during the pandemic, our nation managed to develop a vaccine within 12 to 14 months. This achievement highlights the remarkable strides made in healthcare innovation, setting the stage for further advancements in the field.
The Need for Automated Surgical Sponge Tracking
In surgical procedures, there is always a concern about accidentally leaving behind gauze pieces, sponges, or even surgical instruments inside the abdomen and other areas as the surgery is indicated. Such instances can lead to severe complications, patient morbidity, and a tarnished reputation for hospitals and healthcare providers. Recognising the criticality of this issue, significant innovations have been introduced to address the problem and enhance patient safety.To combat the risks associated with surgical items left behind, KIMSHEALTH has introduced the concept of barcoding surgical gauze through laser printing. Thereby making these surgical items easily trackable during the procedure or before the surgery concludes. A reader is used to ensure that nothing is inadvertently left behind. This innovation serves as a digitalization process, improving the reliability and efficiency of surgical procedures.
The barcoding and laser printing techniques for tracking surgical sponges are not limited to intellectual capital; they represent the digitalization of a crucial process. In the future, it is anticipated that companies supplying gauze pieces will pre-print the barcodes, making it a universal practise across hospitals. This revolution has garnered acclaim, presenting a viable solution to mitigate the fear and risks associated with leaving surgical items inside patients.
Automated Surgical Sponge Tracking: Making it affordable
While the cost of implementing barcoding and laser printing is currently reasonable, it may increase when scaled up. We estimate the cost to be around 30 to 40 rupees per surgery, considering the number of gauze pieces used. However, efforts are underway to reduce this cost to a more affordable level, potentially as low as 10 rupees per surgery. Modifications to the digitization process are continuously being explored to optimise efficiency and cost-effectiveness. And sooner rather than later, I hope that we can implement it even in the public sector so that patient safety is assured everywhere.Automated Surgical Sponge Tracking at KIMS
Preliminary studies conducted at KIMSHEALTH implementing automated surgical sponge tracking have shown promising results. Doctors and nursing staff have hailed this finding as a significant blessing, alleviating the constant worry of counting the surgical sponges that have been used. The barcodes imprinted on the gauze pieces remain active even when soaked in blood or other bodily fluids, ensuring their effectiveness. The challenge now lies in making this innovation widely available to hospitals and healthcare providers in the country, as these gauze pieces are produced at KIMSHEALTH. In instances where many hospitals buy it from a vendor, major vendors can always pre-print it and sell it. Although there are a few questions still remaining, this is an innovation, along with which we also have the same kind of process where we have digitised all the specimens and tracked the instruments. All these mechanisms are working in KIMSHEALTH, and we feel that it is very effective and successful. Apart from the above factors, this also saves money and increases sufficiency. It definitely should be made available for the masses, and that is our objective in the near future.
Automated surgical sponge tracking represents a remarkable innovation in healthcare, driven by the need to enhance patient safety and minimise the risks associated with surgical procedures. By leveraging barcoding and laser printing technology, hospitals can effectively track and retrieve any surgical items before closure, avoiding potentially disastrous consequences. Efforts to make this innovation accessible to a wider audience, including exploring partnerships with vendors and optimising cost efficiency, are underway. With further advancements in digitalization and other healthcare innovations on the horizon, it is clear that the future of healthcare will revolutionise patient care, improve outcomes, and increase accessibility to medical services.