PeaceHealth Invests in Patient Safety: No Sponge Left Behind


​In an effort to further enhance patient safety, PeaceHealth is becoming the first health care system in the Northwest to implement the SurgiCount Safety-Sponge® in its operating, procedure and delivery rooms. PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center began use of the barcoded sponges last week.

The SurgiCount system provides a proven solution to prevent one of the most common surgical errors, medical sponges left behind. Without the system, it is estimated that sponges get left inside one patient in every 6,000 surgeries in the United States. 

“That number should be zero,” said Steven Cabrales, MD, Chief Medical Officer for PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center, who is leading the change for PeaceHealth. “With this system, we can be sure it is.”

Jeremy Blanchard, MD, Vice President of Quality and Medical Affairs for PeaceHealth St. Joseph, said the hospital is committed to continual improvement to ensure patient safety.

“We are on a road to providing excellent, reproducible and sustainable quality of care to every person, every time, every touch - the investment in the SurgiCount system is an example of such efforts,” Dr. Blanchard said. “We are very good at avoiding complications, but even one preventable complication is too many. Our goal is to develop excellent systems supporting our wonderful providers and caregivers.”

The Mayo Clinic Health System was an early adopter of this technology. Since installing the SurgiCount system in its Rochester clinic in 2009, more than one million sponges have been scanned and not one sponge has been left behind.  In all, more than 130 million Safety-Sponges have been used in over 7,000,000 procedures – and not one sponge has been unaccounted for.

The cost for this assurance of protection is about $10 per case. The scanner is provided, and PeaceHealth pays about 30-cents extra per sponge. 

“That’s a very reasonable price for the safety we are guaranteeing,” said Dr. Cabrales.

Dr. Cabrales said that whenever sponges are used in surgeries, invasive procedures and childbirth, a package of barcoded sponges will be used. Each wrapped package has a bar code that is scanned at the beginning of a procedure. When the procedure is complete, the sponges — each of which has an individual bar code — are scanned individually to make sure each is accounted for. 

“Our mission, vision and core values lead us to continually improve,” said Dr. Blanchard. “For us to continue to provide excellent care we must take advantage of opportunities to be our best, SurgiCount provides such an opportunity. By barcoding our sponges we can ensure we never leave one behind. Even if this only prevents one episode, it is worth it.”