“We’re not sure what hardware is in this patient. They have to come out. Can you help?”

I was a trauma implant rep for over 15 years. I would get this call from one of my customer’s office managers probably 2-3 times a year. Every year. I would go in and look at radiographs before the case, and try to make out the shape/profile of the plates, and sometimes I could tell. Or at least I could make an educated guess. Any little bit of information was helpful.

How can this happen?

It’s a dirty little secret but the accuracy of recording what goes into patients is a bit of a mess. Not a lot of people know about this, because not a lot of people are vertical in the operating room. The recording process is entirely manual, and can rely on OR staff who have no idea about the part numbers of the implants they are handing to the surgeons. Sometimes they can be read on the implants themselves, but the very small parts are too small (or have irregular surfaces, which makes barcodes and other similar optical scanning technology unusable) to print numbers on. If they do have part numbers, the micro printing is brutally small, and almost impossible to read without magnification. The trays holding the parts are often too crammed and crowded to print the part numbers on them, or the printing can get worn or faded over hundreds of washings with chemicals that are designed to remove blood and other residual biological matter.

One solution is to have a sales rep in the room for the procedure. This can be more effective, however cost pressures and concurrent surgeries can make this simply impossible sometimes. And its expensive, by most estimates adding 20% to the implant cost of a surgical case. And even with a rep in the room, the supply chain/re-order process is still manual. The part numbers are manually recorded, and have to be transferred manually into a patient record (often called EHR software) by the circulating nurse in the room. Often, the software database doesn’t contain the part numbers implanted, which means for a busy nurse, they might not get recorded. Its not their fault, they have got to get on to other things so the case can close. Turning that room over is VERY important to the hospital. The problem actually is the implant tracking and recording process hasn’t changed much in 50 years.

It simply doesn’t have to be this way.

Every other industry in the world has solved this supply chain challenge. Every other department in the hospital (outside the operating room) has solved this problem. From UPS, to Boeing, to WalMart, to Amazon, to Kroger’s. From the hospital pharmacy, to central supply, to the patient floors.

Its called “point of use scanning”. When something is picked or gets used, it gets scanned. Not that hard a concept.

Summate has developed the first total solution to scan implant usage, at the point of use (in the sterile field during the operation). Our solution centers around patented technology to mark existing surgical trays so they can be scanned, so it doesn’t require any large equipment swap outs. It can be done NOW.

For the first time, the surgical technician, who is responsible for picking and handing the surgeon the implants, can scan the part usage as they are used, with 100% accuracy. This data is transferred to the hospital software for re-order and also transferred to the hospital inventory management software. It can be sent to the device vendor for instant re-supply.

Its faster, and more accurate. Over years it will save billions of dollars in bloated inventories and long, slow supply chains.

Summate’s technology is better for patients, it’s better for hospitals, and it’s better for the device companies. Fact based evidence shows us that these points are inarguable. Alex Gorksy, chairman of J&J, recently was on CNBC stating that all medical device companies needed to start acting like Amazon, which at the end of the day is a company all about supply chain efficiency. And the gold standard for efficient supply chain initiation is scanning at point of use.

Change is hard however, and this is disruptive.

Will it be adopted??? Stay tuned…….

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