Surgical Instruments



Summate TagTape (center) and TagTape affixed to two surgical tools.

PharmaSeq’s p-Chip technology can be used for accurately and efficiently sorting and tracking surgical instruments, a common problem facing hospitals and other healthcare providers. Attaching an ultra-small, durable, low-cost p-Chip ID tag (500 x 500 x 100 μm) to an individual surgical instrument allows the instrument to be tracked starting from its use in an operating room through the entire process of cleaning, sorting, reassembling and autoclaving. 

Need for Individual Tracking

The only tracking technology currently in widespread use in hospital settings is barcode labeling at the tray level. However, a single tray can contain up to 100 instruments, and its contents can vary by procedure and by surgeon. Efforts to use barcodes to serialize the individual instruments for scanning have proven to be problematic, as the small curved shapes of many instruments makes them difficult to read with scanners. Using paper lists to organize the sorting of instruments into appropriate trays following use is particularly problematic. Mistakes can lead to the discovery of missing instruments during surgery and, as a result, require the otherwise unnecessary opening of an additional tray. An individual hospital may own over one million instruments at any given time, and without tracking capabilities each instrument’s age and timeline for required maintenance remain unknown. 

Collaboration with Summate Technologies

Summate Technologies, Inc. (Newburyport, MA) has developed a specialized tape, TagTape™, for use with PharmaSeq’s p-Chips. The patent-pending TagTape design incorporates multiple layers in which a single p-Chip is affixed to each instrument such that it is protected from cracking and breaking when impacted by other instruments while in the tray. Additionally Summate has performed extensive environmental and durability testing to verify the ruggedness of p-Chip-containing TagTape.

A PharmaSeq wand reader, the laser light from which activates the p-Chip, is mounted on a stand and connected to a specialized cloud-based software program developed by Summate. The program maintains information on when each instrument is being used, the tray in which it is located and its history and a photograph. It also contains logic that verifies that all instruments designated for a particular tray are located in that tray before it is released for autoclaving. Database features exist for tracking instruments over time, removing them from circulation for routine maintenance, and removing them from the trays permanently when they become unused or otherwise obsolete.  Studies have shown that without a reliable tracking method, up to 40% of the instruments in surgical trays are unused or obsolete. 

Surgical Tools

The Summate/PharmaSeq system (see photo), while enabling faster scanning when assembling trays, is 100% accurate preventing missing or incomplete assemblies. The software also provides reports that measure and manage staff productivity.

The p-Chip/TagTape system has already received significant interest from numerous medical centers. Trials are starting in Q4 2015, and a commercialized system will be available in 2016. The cost of the system is very affordable as a monthly service fee. Click here for more details.

Key Points

p-Chips are the only tags available for accurately assembling and tracking complex surgical trays to the individual tool level. Each p-Chip carries a unique serial number. p-Chips are robust in a range of environmental conditions, and in particular, are able to withstand autoclaving and function on stainless steel. Associated with TagTape and software, each instrument’s history and location can be tracked.