This is a good idea and an excellent use of technology:
Technology that helps airlines keep track of baggage and sounds an alarm when a shoplifter tries to leave the store may be able to stop surgeons from losing a sponge inside a patient, a study said on Monday.
Doctors at Stanford University School of Medicine who tested sponges embedded with radio frequency identification tags said the system accurately alerted surgeons when they deliberately left a sponge inside a temporarily closed surgical site and waved a detector wand over it.
And they could go further. Its been widely reported that close to 100,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors. And its been suggested this number is too low. I believe there are many ways computer technology can be leveraged to make the practice of medicine much safer. Mind you, not as a replacement to current practices, but as an enhancement.
I had voiced a related suggestion more than a year ago whereby medication containers (bubble packages, bottles, syringes, etc.) would contain a RFID coded with the drug and dose. The patient’s chart and wrist band would contain data about what they are allergic to, which medications had been prescribed and the dose prescribed. Coordinated with a central knowledge base about all known drug interactions an additional level of checking (assuming the medical staff continues to check medications as is done today) can be done by computers to ensure the patient is getting what was prescribed, the dose and interval is correct and contraindications/side effects are taken into account.
A thread on the use of RFID for surgical sponges can be found at Schneier on Security.