Operating Room

How to Improve Patient Safety in the Operating Room

“First do no harm” is a guiding principle for many doctors and clinicians, and its meaning holds extra weight in an operating room.

Almost everything in an operating room could be harmful, from the surgical implements to the power running through the heart monitor to the germs in the very air. That being the case, how can medical computer technology, robust asset tracking, and even robotic-assisted surgery work harder to safeguard patients?

What are the most common dangers in the operating room, and how can they be controlled and contained?

Fighting Sepsis in the Operating Room

Sepsis — or, the condition of extreme infection — is a common enemy in the hospital, affecting more than a million patients in the United States alone. A third of those inflicted don’t survive.

Luckily, modern medical technology is both decreasing the chances of infection, and improving the outlook of those who suffer from it. Techniques like ultra-violet radiation exposure, employed during the procedure itself to lower surgical-site bacteria, have been around for decades.

However, there are more recent methods that can reinforce the sterile field of the operating room.

What are the benefits of a sealed medical computer?

Medical computers and medical LCD monitors equipped with antimicrobial housing can reduce the surface level of bacteria-friendly growth areas in the OR. The antimicrobial housing on these units also complements the dust-tight and splash-resistant front bezel.

With an IP65 rating for particle and liquid breach, medical monitors and computers in an operating room can be thoroughly sterilized by spraying them and rubbing them down with many of the same chemicals already being employed by the sanitation staff.

A newer innovation, fanless design, means that the medical monitor or medical computer can stay cool without the use of a fan. Fan’s are traditionally a huge weak point in any computer system. They move air through the machine, which — in an operating room — can create a pocket of infection that is then sprayed all around the area. Which is why a computer or monitor without a fan is so helpful to surgeons and anesthesiologists inside the OR.

This impenetrable design also means that bacteria, infected liquids, and dust-born pathogens can’t enter and fester inside of the dark, warm environment typical of most computers.

These modern medical computer construction methods eliminate one more infection vector inside the operating room.

How Does Robot-Assisted Surgery Help Patients?

Robot-assisted surgery allows surgeons to operate in tiny spaces, but with all the dexterity (or more) of their normal process.

How it works: One to four tiny cuts are made, depending on the surgery, into which the thin robotic arms are inserted. These arms are equipped with various tools, custom-equipped for the procedure at hand — and, of course, micro-cameras and lights. The surgeon then controls the limbs from a nearby console, which allows them to perform the surgery and even magnify the picture to an extent unmatched by human eyes.

The other bonus to robot-assisted surgery is — because the surgery cuts are so small — they heal faster, are less likely to get infected, and cause far less pain to the patient in the long run.

And while robot-assisted surgery has been around for a little bit, recent advances may allow surgeons to use the process to operate on areas that used to be far too cramped and complex: the spine, and the brain.

One of the newer robotic surgery assistants is the digital microscope, exemplified by the Modus V made by Synaptive Medical Inc. Positioned above the patient during surgery, robotic digital microscopes can provide the surgical team with unprecedented access to even the smallest components of the body’s complex nervous system.

Robot-assisted surgery ensures that no big problem is too small, and that the patient’s surgery and recovery is priority #1 for the hospital who leverages it.                                                                                                 

The Dangers of Long-Distance Anesthesia

A recent study found that not only are anesthesiologists performing more of their in-surgery duties from outside of the operating room, but that this trend may be having proven consequences to patient health. Malpractice claims for death involving anesthesiologists who were in another room increased by over 20%, as did respiratory damage and inadequate oxygenation events.

The study went on to conclude that these remote location events could have been prevented by better (and closer) monitoring.

The primary reason for an anesthesiologist being outside of the operating theatre is his or her computer. A standard computer or laptop uses fans to cool the CPU and motherboard, to keep everything running at the right operating temperature. As we learned earlier, fans in an operating room are a huge liability, spreading infected air and debris all around the room.

A fanless medical computer allows an anesthesiologist to stay in the room, increasing patient safety, improving their own organization and efficiency, and keeping the surgery team all together in the same space.

How Does Asset Tracking Make the Operating Room Safer?

It’s a sad fact that the average warehouse has a more robust asset-tracking system than any hospital or operating theater.

Asset tracking isn’t about inventory, necessarily — it’s about knowing where every important instrument and tool is located, what condition it’s in, and whether or not it’s ready for use.

Tracking Surgical Instruments

A scalpel or clamp or other surgical instruments could be stamped with a barcode. This barcode is then scanned by a medical tablet, which tracks its progress through both the hospital and its own life and use cycle.

If all instruments are scanned after being sterilized, and then scanned after being double checked, and then scanned when they leave a storage area and head to the OR, it reduces errors in the supply chain and increases accountability.

When a nurse in the operating room opens a fresh tray of instruments and scans their barcodes, they’ll have access to the full picture of that instrument. They can confirm it’s been properly sterilized and even sent to the right operating room for the correct operation.

Digital Asset Tracking for Blood Transfusions

Barcodes and RFID tags are already in use to track blood units and eliminate potential errors.

Blood for transfusion is as common in an OR as scrubs, which is why it’s so important that proper, modern asset tracking and inventory practices apply. A patient receiving the wrong blood type during surgery can even be fatal — the body’s immune system attempts to “fight” the new blood, which can lead to catastrophic health issues.

A tracking system for blood units, one paired with the wristband of the patient, does an excellent job of minimizing the chance of the kind of small snafus that can turn into huge problems.

Risk is Our Business

Surgery will always carry an element of risk, and no OR will ever be completely free of danger. However, embracing modern medical computers and the latest safety techniques can increase patient safety and improve the conditions of the operating room for the staff as well.
Reach out to Cybernet to learn more about how modern medical computers, monitors, and tablets can increase workflow and reduce the chance of infection.

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