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Three Rivers Health using new tech for patient and staff safety

SurgiCount Safety-Sponge System on display at Three Rivers Health (Jorge Rodas/Newschannel 3).

Three Rivers Health showed off three new systems with technology that should reduce the risks of complications following surgery.

The first is the SurgiCount Safety Sponge System.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists says between 4,500 and 6,000 sponges and surgical instruments are left inside patients' bodies per year.

The SurgiCount helps surgical staff track sponges by scanning each one individually with a bar code.

"You count all the sponges on, you count all the sponges off," said Three Rivers Health Chief of Staff Dr. Jessica Puckett.

When the procedure is done and doctors and nurses remove sponges from inside the patients body, they rescan the used sponges. If one is missing, the system sounds off, alerting staff that sponges may still be inside.

Puckett said the alert could save a patient from serious injury.

"Infection, scar tissue, pain, for the surgery, could. And abscess, which is a good cause bowel perforation - so it's pretty significant," she said.

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins scientists found medical errors were the 3rd leading cause of death each year in the US.

Three Rivers Health's new safety tools are all made by Stryker.

Stryker Senior Brand Manager of Surgical Safety Jason Davies said the tool can also save hospitals and doctors from lawsuits.

He said mistakes can lead to additional surgery for patients and litigation that result in a $2.4 billion expenditure to the health care system in the United States.

"Surgical safety, medical safety is something huge that we have to recognize in this country," Davies said.

Approximately 600 hospitals nationwide have adopted SurgiCount system.

"A lot of people don't understand that small hospitals sometimes have the same, and every once in a while, better technology than the larger medical centers," said Three Rivers Health Interim CEO David Shannon.

The second tool Three Rivers Health uses is the Neptune E-SEP Smoke Evacuation Pencil.

It is an electrocautery pencil used in surgery to make incisions or to cauterize blood vessels during surgery.

"When you cauterize you are burning it, so smoke comes out, smoke is a carcinogen, so [smoke] gets sucked through the [tube]," Puckett said.

The smoke evacuation system prevents lung cancer and other diseases caused by inhaling smoke.

"Patient safety comes first, but physician safety, employee safety, that's 1-a and 1-b," Shannon said.

Then there's disposing unused powerful drugs doctors order for patients. Nurses and staff usually dumped unused drugs down the drain, but Three Rivers Health now uses the Catus Smart Sink Controlled Substance Waste Management System.

"Nurses don't want to be squirting drugs down the drain," said Pat Moesta, with Stryker. "They know the effects that it has on the ecosystem, but it's also the fact that they know that once it's placed in the system there's no way to get it back."

Puckett said she has known of hospital staff in the past who would try retrieving those disposed medicines because they were addicted to opioids and pain killers.

Shannon said all hospitals should invest in similar technologies.

"If you don't have that how did you really show your face to the community," he said.

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