May 25, 2022 | Sterile Processing Leadership Communication

4 Ways to Improve SPD/OR Relations and Increase Your Hospital’s Bottom Line

Sterile processing technicians and operating room (OR) staff have complex, important and demanding jobs. They rely on each other to keep surgeries safe and on schedule. Despite this dependence, OR and sterile processing departments (SPDs) often feel like they aren’t on the same page.

“During my time as an implementation specialist with Censis, communication was the biggest disconnect I noticed between SPDs and ORs,” said Jacob Long, CCSVP, who now serves as Censis’s director of sales engineering. “Sometimes it’s a real estate thing, like when an SPD is in the basement and the OR is a few floors above. Other times it’s just a process thing. But there was always something that would cause a problematic break between the two departments.”

Why do SPD and OR relations matter?

Effective communication is critical to patient safety, improving surgical quality and optimizing perioperative efficiency—all of which affect a surgical facility’s bottom line. In fact, all of the sterile processing professionals we talk to agree that communication between the SPD and OR is important to ensure excellent patient care.

Still, SPD respondents reported having different goals, quality issues like missing trays and different “languages” when it came to surgical instruments – all of which impacted communication and strained their relationship with OR staff.

Luckily there are ways to easily improve interdepartmental communication challenges using surgical asset management solutions. Let’s explore four ways this technology can make a night-and-day difference in SPD and OR relations at your facility.

4 Ways to improve communication between your SPD and OR

Surgeries and surgical instruments have both become increasingly complex. With so much to keep track of on a tight schedule, sterile processing technicians and OR teams are often under a lot of stress and feel like they don’t have time to figure out why a problem is occurring. That’s where the benefits of technology come in.

1. Implement a surgical instrument tracking system

Surgical instrument tracking systems can keep track of individual instruments throughout the reprocessing cycle so SPD and OR teams can see:

  • Where an instrument has been
  • When it was last used
  • Who it was handled by
  • Which cases it was used in

These functionalities alone provide unparalleled visibility into the life of each instrument for SPDs and ORs. If a tray hasn’t arrived to the OR on time, OR staff can see where it is and why there may be a delay. Conversely, SPD technicians can see which instruments are in use and whether a tray was returned.

CensiTrac is our flagship solution, and while it was primarily designed for SPD utilization, it’s really designed for perioperative reprocessing as a whole,” said Long. “It’s a real-time tracking system, so it naturally captures a lot of data that no one communicates or documents.”

This can be especially helpful if an instrument is missing or if the OR receives an incorrect count sheet.

2. Make use of built-in tools designed for communication

Aside from the inherent documentation that comes with instrument tracking, your solution should also have tools created specifically to help with SPD and OR communication. With CensiTrac, that means built-in internal messaging tools and a comments feature that allows SPD technicians to add a note for the OR when they’re putting together a tray. That note will then print onto the count sheet.

“That functionality is valuable because a lot of things happen in SPDs that can’t be easily documented, like if an instrument is missing and there aren’t any extras in storage,” said Long. “This lets SPDs inform OR team members that they are aware of the issue and have more on order. Something that simple can mitigate a lot of problems.”

CensiTrac also has the ability to attach asset-specific messages to an instrument that will automatically pop up for anyone who scans it. This is useful for OR teams if they have questions or encounter something unusual, like a damaged instrument.

3. Try an instrument cross-reference tool

Tray accuracy is imperative for ORs to provide the best surgical care, and an instrument cross-reference tool can help ensure that accuracy.

Censis’s new cross-reference tool within CensiTrac automatically aligns a customer’s instrument catalog with a pre-existing database of up to 250,000 cross-references between manufacturers. This makes it easier for SPD staff to identify viable substitutions when an instrument isn’t available, as substitutes will automatically pop up during tray assembly. The tool can be turned on with the flip of a switch.

Long explained that many surgical facilities have been around a long time, and they end up with a catalog of the same instruments from different vendors. But because this isn’t documented, substitutes aren’t always easily recognized, especially by new SPD staff.

“With the industry’s turnover rates being so high, this is a great tool for new technicians who may not be as familiar with what can be used in place of an instrument. It’s also great for seasoned technicians because it provides affirmation and offers them continued education,” said Long.

4. Ensure your solutions work together

Finally, there’s no point in implementing new solutions if they can’t be integrated. In fact, having systems that don’t “talk” to each other can worsen interdepartmental communication.

CensiTrac was built to be seamlessly integrated with many major systems and manufacturers, including OR scheduling interfaces like EPIC and Cerner, sterilizer interfaces, washer interfaces, biological indicator incubator interfaces and more. All of Censis’ solutions can also be easily integrated with one another because they were all built in-house, said Long. This provides surgical facilities with scalability and customization catered to their needs.

“We have a solutions portfolio that can be used as parts of a whole or as one giant communicating unit. They’re designed to help the perioperative space be future-proof because they’re all scalable, they can all integrate and they’re all designed with different perioperative functions in mind,” said Long. “When I was an implementation specialist, I implemented two-room surgical clinics and 30-room OR trauma centers, and the exact same software can be used at both.”

How Censis can help

Just because SPD and OR relations are often strained doesn’t mean they have to stay that way. Learn how CensiTrac, Censis’s new instrument cross-reference tool and other communication-improving solutions and services can make a difference at your facility.