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5 Technologies to Make Surgery Safer

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, August 31, 2010

4. Lack of access to anesthesiologists
Improper anesthesia administration is another scary medical error—and one that particularly affects patients in rural areas or areas with shortages of anesthesiologists. Experts could administer regional anesthesia from afar with the help of a surgical robot, according to a study in the September issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia. In the study, both single-injection and perineural catheter techniques were successfully performed by an operator who was not physically present at the bedside by placing ultrasound-guided nerve blocks into an ultrasound phantom using a surgical robotic system. “Similar advances in teleanesthesia will be necessary to bring comparable perioperative care to the geographically remote patient,” the authors note.

5. Alert fatigue
Clinicians and caregivers can become overwhelmed by alarms to the point that they start to tune them out—it's common enough that there's a term for it: alert fatigue. An alarm management system that can differentiate between serious alerts and less pressing matters works on top of pulse oximeters, which monitor patients for oxygen saturation levels after surgery. The system prioritizes the importance of these alerts and only notifies the nurse about the most pressing. It doesn't just alert to drastic drops, but also to the more subtle—and easier for humans to miss—recurring moderate reductions in airflow. The system also provides the clinician with historical and real-time information about a patient's condition.

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