NUH nurses now count the pieces of gauze used for operations manually. — ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN
  • National University Hospital: Tagging surgical gauze in the operating theatre to ensure none is left inside a patient.
  • SMRT Corp: Using RFID tags to create a self-service warehouse where staff can self-check out vehicle parts.
  • Tan Chong AutoClinic: The Nissan car distributor will use tags to ensure the right car is delivered to a customer.
  • Kim Hiap Lee: The firm, which hires out wooden pallets, will use the tags to reduce errors in counting returned stock as well as track its products.
  • National Cancer Centre Singapore: Patients are tagged on registration so that clinic staff know where they are at all times. This will also help the clinic better estimate patients’ waiting times.
  • Honsen Printing Industries: The firm uses tags to monitor its raw materials so that it does not run out or overstock.
  • Stone Forest Consulting: Tags on its files help auditors locate them easily.
  • OM Group Ultra Pure Chemicals: The tubes used to suck out industrial chemicals from huge drums are tagged to ensure that the right tubes are used, preventing contamination.

SURGICAL gauze with its own identity is just one of eight new wireless technology projects the Government is supporting.

It is pumping about $1 million to co-fund eight new projects using wireless tags, including one at the National University Hospital (NUH) which tags pieces of gauze to ensure none is left behind in patients after surgery.

The winning projects, picked from a pool of 13 applicants, were given awards yesterday by Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan at the sixth annual RFID (radio-frequency identification) world conference held at Suntec convention centre.

NUH’s director of operations Grace Chiang said its project would help improve patient safety and efficiency during operations. In critical procedures like heart bypasses, more than 120 pieces of gauze may be needed.

Each is ‘counted by one nurse’ and its removal ‘witnessed by another’ to ensure none is left behind in patients, she said.

Automating the counting of gauze pieces will improve the safety aspect, ensuring no gauze is left behind in the patient while freeing the nurses to do more important medical tasks, she explained.

This pilot, expected to cost about $250,000, will be completed this September and used in two of NUH’s operating theatres. The hospital is also working on a separate $1 million project to tag equipment like scalpels and even patients going for operations.

Other projects that won funding include one to track Nissan cars and another that ensures chemicals used in high-tech semiconductor chip manufacturing are not contaminated.

RFID technology, invented in the 1970s, has gained more acceptance in recent years as the cost of tags and electronic readers has fallen. Currently, this technology is used in library books, ez-link cards and the Electronic Road Pricing system.

Wireless tags today can cost as little as 5 cents each in large volume purchases, down from 50 cents just five years ago. Because of this, companies are also beginning to look at using the tags in single-use, disposable products like surgical gauze.

Since the Government launched its $4.5 million RFID Innovation Platform fund last year, it has given out $1.25 million to 11 projects including the eight announced yesterday, said the National RFID Centre’s director Lee Eng Wah.

RFID technology, he said, is expected to ‘save the adopters millions of dollars through operation cost savings, productivity gains and business growth’.

The centre, set up in 2006 to promote the use of RFID technology here and make Singapore a centre for the development of this technology, administers the fund together with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).


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