Law Offices of Salazar, Sullivan & Jasionowski
Menu Contact

Surgical objects, barcodes and top-down medical culture

How in the world can surgical teams leave objects (such as sponges) behind in patients' bodies?

The question has been a source of consternation for years - and is still a pressing problem.

To be sure, the movement toward the use of surgical checklists has finally begun to address the problem more systemically. After all, such checklists force surgical teams to count the objects that they put in. This number then provides an important reminder of how many items need to come out.

In this post, we will take note of another way to try to solve the problem of what the medical community calls "retained foreign objects": by putting barcodes on the foreign objects and using electronic counters to tally them up.

These counters are supposed to be able to decipher the barcodes even if sponges or other objects are soaked in blood.

So far, the number of hospitals and other healthcare providers using this new, technology-driven approach is relatively small. There about three dozen places around the country that have invested in the technology necessary to use barcodes to detect left-behind surgical objects.

Though the goal of the barcode method is laudable, it is all too easy to try to depend on a technological fix to problems. What may really be needed is a paradigm shift in the way medical services are delivered in the first place.

All too often, surgical errors and other medical mistakes result from a top-down culture that discourages rank-and-file workers from speaking up about safety concerns.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Can Technology Stop Surgeons From Leaving Sponges Inside Patients?" John Tozzi, March 25, 2014

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Contact Salazar, Sullivan & Jasionowski today to learn more about how we can help you.

Call our firm at 505-349-4003 or toll free at 888-819-2544.

Email Us For A Response

Get Help Today

Get Help Today

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Map + Driving Directions
Law Offices of Salazar, Sullivan & Jasionowski

100 Gold Avenue SW, Suite 201
Albuquerque, NM 87102-3476

Toll Free: 888-819-2544
Phone: 505-349-4003
Fax: 505-314-1419
Albuquerque Law Office

Review Us