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Chasing Zero Retained Items
Lessons learned from two facilities that overhauled their prevention efforts with education, communication and technology.
Natalie Hope McDonald | Contributing Editor
Publish Date: October 20, 2022   |  Tags:   Patient Safety Staff Training and Education Healthcare IT
Retained Object
SEA OF SPONGES Soft goods like sponges and towels are among the most common retained items mistakenly left in patients, according to AORN.

The effects of a single retained surgical item (RSI) are often catastrophic to the unfortunate patients who fall victim to these sentinel events. As for the facilities who commit these never-events, the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority estimates the average cost related to a single RSI is about $166,000, including costs associated with legal defense and payouts. Luckily, technological solutions combined with meticulous manual processes are proving effective in changing the way surgical objects are counted before and after surgery.

The first type of solution uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to account for items used during surgery. Each item is chipped with a unique RFID identity. This allows items to be tracked with a handheld device connected to a software system that automatically performs the counting. Not only does the technology tend to report back more accurate counts compared to manual counting, it also increases efficiency in the OR by helping to reduce the much more time-consuming accounting processes of the past.

The second type of system uses a data-matrix barcode-scanning technology to identify and confirm the accuracy of manual counts. Compared to manual entry alone, the barcodes provide a much more reliable method of not only accounting for what items are used during surgery, but also where they end up after each procedure. If the pre- and post-procedure counts don’t match, the situation can be quickly addressed before the patient leaves the OR.

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