Did pair of forceps get left in patient?

Photo above: Surgical items at KK are tagged with radio frequency chips. The tracking system won a prize at the National Infocomm Awards yesterday.

SINGAPORE - A new radio frequency tracking system has rendered obsolete the way in which doctors and nurses used to account for every blade, swab and pair of forceps used during surgical procedures.

Once surgical items are tagged with a radio-frequency chip, they can be easily tracked with a scanner and the total count is automatically shown on a computer screen.

The system, thought to be a world-first, was developed by a Singapore-based firm and won a prize at the National Infocomm Awards 2012 yesterday.

It was initiated by KK Women's and Children's Hospital. The system has been under clinical trial since January 2010, and has been able to combat human counting errors.

Previously, patients had to remain in the operating theatre after surgery to ensure no surgical items were left inside their bodies. This procedure typically takes 10 minutes for a two-hour operation - but would take an extra hour if items were found to be missing.

The patent-pending tracking system was developed by engineering firm O'Connor's Singapore and is dubbed Surgical Counting and Operating Theatre Tracking.

Associate Professor Bernard Chern, head and senior consultant at KK's department of obstetrics and gynaecology, said the system is slated for hospital- wide roll-out in Singapore by the end of next year, pending approval by the Health Sciences Authority. The idea was inspired by cash-counting machines used by banks, he said.

At the National Infocomm Awards, KK won in the Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology (Public Sector) category.

The biennial awards are jointly organised by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore and trade body Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation. They received 266 nominations from local organisations this year, a 90 per cent increase from 2010.

There was another winner in the same category - Singapore Prison Service, for its inmate self-service kiosk. Among other things, it prints letter forms for inmates to write to their families and also for the online redemption of rewards for good behaviour.

The kiosk, which was tested for a year from last July, has freed up officers' time so they can focus on security and safety checks.

At the award presentation dinner yesterday at Raffles City Convention Centre, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, said: "This year's nominations also underscore an often forgotten aspect of innovation. While innovation is typically associated with state-of-the-art technology, the application of established technology in a new manner can be equally impactful."

Five other winners received their prizes yesterday. They included Changi Airport Group (CAG), which won in the Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology (Private Sector - General) category for its customer feedback system.

More than 660 touchscreens installed at toilets, check-in counters and retail outlets allow CAG to get instant feedback.

Start-up aSpecial Media won in the Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology (Private Sector - SMEs) category for developing an online Web user behavioural tracking system to help advertisers reach the right audience.

Another winner was local start-up iTwin in the Most Innovative Infocomm Product/Service category. This was for its USB secure connection device that employs automatic data encryption to allow users to securely access their files from anywhere around the world.

itham@sph.com.sg


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