ClearCount to expand sponge-detection system

By Eric Wicklund
10:57 AM

A healthcare IT company focused on reducing costly “never events” in hospitals by keeping track of used surgical sponges has raised $5 million to continue and expand its work.

ClearCount Medical Solutions, based in Pittsburgh, announced on Tuesday the close of its $5 million Series B financing round. Company officials say they’ll use the financing to drive market penetration and new research and development of their products, which make use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track used sponges in surgical areas of the hospital.

“ClearCount's patented RFID technology and offerings are more relevant than ever,” said Mike Stubler, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures, a Midwestern-based provider of venture funding and ClearCount’s leading shareholder. “As improving the quality of healthcare continues to be a national focus, solutions that can also impact the efficiency and value a hospital offers its patients are sure to be adopted. ClearCount has shown this is true with its track record of customer and partnership wins.”

“Thanks to the strong backing of our investors, this past year ClearCount completed a valuable distribution deal, signed major new customers and introduced an important new product that is making surgical procedures safer every day,” said David Palmer, ClearCount’s CEO.

RFID solutions are finding increasing popularity in healthcare settings, where they’re being used to track equipment and people. ClearCount’s solutions, SmartSponge (in which tiny RFID chips are sewn into each sponge) and the newer SmartWand-DTX platform, take that a step further by identifying each sponge used during surgery and providing its location.

Retained items – such as sponges – are estimated to occur once every 1,000 to 1,500 intra-abdominal surgery procedures, leading to complications that could include infections and death, and have been classified as a “never event” by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Unnecessary complications that lead to rehospitalizations and more advanced treatment have been estimated to add $30.5 billion to the nation’s annual healthcare bill, making them a prime target in healthcare reform.

According to ClearCount officials, a recent study found that a surgical delay of just 30 minutes doubles the risk of infectious complications.

Last month, the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System implemented the SmartSponge platform in its full suite of operating rooms.

“We are pleased to derive the benefits of such a comprehensive solution for the prevention of retained surgical sponges,” said Mark A. Wilson, MD, chief surgeon and medical director of the surgery specialty service line at VA Pittsburgh. “We use the SmartSponge System to improve patient safety in our ORs with the goal of also improving efficiency. The uniqueness of this RFID platform is its integration of both counting and detection strategies. It is capable of growing with our patient safety initiatives, and we look forward to the future benefits it will provide.”

Palmer pointed to the company’s plans to expand its platform in a June 30 announcement that Mercy Philadelphia Hospital had become the first user of the SmartWand-DTX.

“The SmartWand-DTX is a great choice for hospitals not only because of its capabilities but also because it is built on a platform that can grow to include a range of other applications for improving patient safety,” he said. “Mercy Philadelphia Hospital shows great foresight and leadership in its choice and we’re excited to be working with the Mercy team.”