Benefits of Tracking Systems for Surgical Instrument Sterilization Processes in Hospitals
Surgical instrument processing improves the safety of surgical care in hospitals, yet some facilities continue to rely on a paper trail to track instruments at the tray level. This creates potentially dangerous and expensive risks.
Misplaced instruments may result in buying unneeded replacements or canceled procedures. Not being able to identify which instruments were used in a case means not knowing if all those instruments came back or ended up in a patient.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information estimates the mortality rate of retained surgical objects at almost 2 percent1. Utilizing marked instruments and counting instruments in operating rooms greatly reduces the chance of leaving an instrument in a patient or accidentally disposing of it in the laundry or trash bin.
Meanwhile, hospital-acquired infections have increased. The CDC estimates that almost 90,000 individuals die because of hospital-acquired infection in the U.S. each year1. That should make infection prevention from contaminated instruments a number 1 priority for any hospital or surgery center. Having better control over surgical inventory reprocessing can help.
Surgical instrument sterilization and tracking
Sterilization of surgical instruments is an exact science that has certain specific steps that must be followed. Benchmarks must be met in order for the instruments to be considered sterilized to patient safety and institutional guidelines. All the steps in the procedures must be tracked and documented, or they might as well not have occurred.
Having a dedicated sterile processing department (SPD) gives healthcare facilities more control over the process. Personnel must be trained and updated on:
- Safe transport of contaminated instruments and supplies
- Decontamination procedures
- Preparing instruments and containers for sterilization
- Selection of the right sterilization process and cycle for the specific instruments and containers in a load
- Verifying the effectiveness of the sterilization process using mechanical, chemical or biological indicators before the sterile items are released from the department
- Proper delivery and storage of sterile equipment.
Regulatory Compliance with Tracking Software
Many sterile processing departments still track only to the tray level. This may result in being out of compliance with regulatory standards. In May 2021, the FDA established the unique device identification (UDI) system, which now links surgical instruments directly to the patient. A high-quality asset tracking system is more important now than ever.
When CensiTrac® was developed, it was the first surgical instrument tracking system to track each individual instrument in a set. Over time, it has allowed SPD staff to be in complete control of their inventory, including details such as:
- Name and specific descriptors of each instrument to instructions for use (IFUs) that include inspection and maintenance schedules
- Preferred (and alternate) sterilization methods
- Location of each instrument and of any substitute instruments, should that set be due for maintenance.
The software interfaces seamlessly with OR scheduling, to make sure that each tray and each instrument required is located, processed, and put back into service as needed. Assets can be marked through Censis’ CensiMark® program, which offers laser, electrochemical, and other marking methods, depending on the instrument or institution’s preferences. CensiTrac makes specific information about tracked equipment easily accessible. In a matter of minutes, you have the information you need when you need it.
To avoid disruptions to your workflow, the Censis team can come on-site and mark your instruments or provide training and the hardware for you to do your own marking. That allows you to:
- Track every container to each patient and identify all the unique instruments in each procedure. When you know what set was sterilized and what instruments were in the set, you can identify the instruments and their history creating a thorough and efficient means of reporting for a root cause analysis or tracer.
- Quickly locate instruments or surgical trays involved in a recall.
Quickly identify the sterilization and maintenance history of each container and its contents. Scanning each instrument into the system can help guarantee you have the correct instrument in the container, the correct name on a peel pack, and will alert staff if an instrument is due for maintenance.
Highlights of CensiTrac capabilities:
- Each instrument in every tray can be tracked over the entire lifetime or complete patient traceability.
- During decontamination, SPD personnel have direct access to a specific trays and instrument cleaning instructions.
- During tray assembly, the software gives users key details about specific instruments, like approved substitutes and any special instructions for care.
- The maintenance system ensures items are maintained based on use to avoid unnecessary maintenance costs and time out of service.
- The inventory management system cuts time spent searching for containers or putting together case carts by more than a third.
Pulling it all together
Bringing your facility into the light of sterile processing excellence gives you control over your surgical instrument management from a regulatory, patient safety, cost-effectiveness, and employee empowerment point of view. It all starts with capturing each individual instrument and finding its place in your system.
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