can a new software program all but eliminate surgical errors

From robotic surgical systems controlled via joystick to mobile sterilization units, technology in the operating room has grown by some truly remarkable leaps and bounds over the last 20 years. However, despite these technological advances, patients continue to be victimized by seemingly simplistic surgical errors such as operations performed on the wrong patient or wrong location, and objects left behind after surgery.

While there are measures in place to help prevent these kinds of medical mistakes from occurring, they are decidedly low-tech and of varying success. For instance, a surgeon can use a marker to identify the patient and site of the operation, while a surgical team can use a verbal and written checklist to keep track of instruments used during the course of the procedure.

Interestingly, an Orlando-based technology entrepreneur has devised a new software system that is designed to bring surgical safety into the 21st century and leave surgical errors in the 20th century.

The brainchild of 37-year-old Pranam Ben, the software program known as AiR is essentially a hands-free system that enables surgeons to verify that they are about to undertake the proper procedure on the proper patient and they won’t leave any objects behind.

AiR is designed to connect with a hospital/medical facility’s electronic medical record system and broadcast this information into designated operating rooms. Specifically, there is a monitor in the designated operating room listing the names of patients scheduled to undergo surgery that day. The surgeon is then able to access the patient’s medical records via AiR’s voice command and verify both their identity and the procedure to be performed.

“The system automatically picks up all the patient’s data, notes and images from the hospital’s electronic records, which makes it very handy,” said the CEO of one Florida-based medical center piloting the program.

As if all of this weren’t impressive enough, AiR also provides the surgical team with a checklist to verify that all foreign objects have been accounted for and even records the entire procedure on camera.

Thus far, AiR is only being used in a select number of medical centers in the Sunshine State. However, Ben is hopeful that its use will take off across the nation after he has a chance to showcase it at the upcoming HIMSS14 conference, an annual event featuring over 35,000 health-care IT specialists from all over the world.

If AiR does indeed perform as expected, we can only hope that software programs like it become the new standard in operating rooms such that patients will no longer have to be victimized by otherwise avoidable surgical errors.

Source: The Orlando Sentinel, “Entrepreneur’s software keeps surgeons in check,” Marni Jameson, Feb. 2, 2014

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