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Surgeons Still Forgetting To Remove Objects from Patients

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 1, 2010

Billingsley says the proposed collaborative will "engage healthcare providers in implementing identified best practices to reduce the retention of a foreign object during surgery." A number of hospitals will be recruited to participate.

She says she feels confident that even with the current state budget crunch, the funds will be approved because the money is earmarked to improve quality of care.

The collaborative will explore processes, which when consistently implemented, will reduce the number of forgotten objects. For example, one tactic might be "consistent and methodical wound exploration before closing, attention to human factors contributing to error, and the use of assistive technology."

The project will begin officially when the Legislature approves the expenditure, expected later this year.

Hospitals have an added incentive to participate. As of Oct. 1, 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will no longer reimburse hospitals for the cost of caring for a patient's injuries—such as infection or repeated surgeries—necessitated by a retained foreign object.

"We have definitely selected an area for research where we believe we can improve the health and safety of the people of California," Billingsley says. "And we all agree that this is not a California specific issue."


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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