May 9, 2022 | Sterile Processing Leadership

4 Steps to Making the Most of Your Surgical Instrument Tracking System

From unparalleled inventory control to instant reporting and workflow transparency, the benefits of surgical instrument tracking software are endless. However, many facilities that have implemented this technology aren’t taking advantage of all the powerful tools at their disposal.

That’s where clinical educators like Jill Sweeney, CRCST, CIS, CER, CHL, come in.

“I have yet to go to a facility where they’re using every aspect of their tracking system,” said Sweeney, clinical educator at Censis and a former traveling sterile processing technician. “We want to help people better utilize their system to save them time, improve their interdepartmental communication and help them stay compliant.”

Sweeney’s job takes her to facilities around the country to help understand, analyze and improve workflows in sterile processing departments (SPDs) by using technology they already have. Through her experience, she has found most places don’t use valuable tools like Censis’s competencies, loaner and quality feedback modules that can drastically elevate a department’s efficiency.

We sat down with Sweeney to get her thoughts on concrete steps we can take to ensure SPDs begin using their sterile processing systems to the fullest.

Server analysis

Before Sweeney ever steps foot on a plane to visit a client, she looks at all the information available on their server via remote access. This gives her an initial sense of what a facility is and isn’t doing and helps her identify gaps.

“At a lot of places, the SPD might be using the tracking system, but there might be a separate endo/GI lab that is using paper records,” said Sweeney. “It’s all in the same facility, so it doesn’t cost them more money to be using that capability. A lot of clients don’t know that.”

Analyzing a client’s server can also help determine whether Censis’s data cleansing service may be of use to build a stronger surgical asset management foundation.

Utilization assessments

Because remote assessments only reveal part of a facility’s workflow, the next step is to see it in action. Sweeney will go on site to understand an SPD’s processes by touring the facility and following trays through the full sterilization process to see how CensiTrac is being used at each step. It’s not uncommon for her to find that some processes are still being handled manually even though the system can automate them.

“At most facilities, for example, you’ll see a shelf with 4-inch binders full of competencies in a manager’s office. It’s this huge paper production,” said Sweeney. “When you use CensiTrac’s competencies module, there’s no paperwork involved. You also don’t have to remember who has received what competencies and when because there are reports that send out warnings when competencies are about to expire.”

Because each point in these assessments references compliance standards set by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), health care systems can also make use of these findings to remain compliant.

Customized onsite training

Sweeney uses the final utilization report to develop a training program specific to each facility based on the areas where they could benefit most. This weeklong program allows her to meet with leadership, train as many staff as possible by ensuring training sessions overlap with each shift and help SPD supervisors with anything they may need. Staff are given continuing education (CE) credits for attending.

Of the 3 clinical services Censis offers, Sweeney feels its training service is most valuable to clients.

“With continual turnover in the sterile processing industry, if I return to a facility a year after its last training, it’s likely that I won’t know most of the people there, including leadership,” said Sweeney. “SPDs have to constantly keep staff fresh and help them know and understand what they’re supposed to be doing. That’s why onsite training is so valuable.”

Ongoing customer support

One important aspect about Censis’s offerings is that support for each facility never goes away. Every account has an assigned client manager that conducts onsite and virtual business reviews, trainings and check-ins. All staff members also have access to a 24/7 help desk for customer assistance.

Sweeney says that during her time as an SPD tech at facilities using other surgical instrument tracking systems, she never once saw a representative come onsite to offer training. Censis offers the most comprehensive support for sterile processing she has seen during her time in the industry.

“Looking back on my work at facilities that use other tracking systems, I don’t remember there being a help desk number on the main screen that I could call when I had questions,” said Sweeney. “Our clients can call about something as simple as not being able to get a label to print because the printer ran out of labels and they don’t know how to put new labels in. They can also get help with things like building a new report, utilizing the quality feedback module or adding a new employee. Censis is the only company I’ve ever seen with that level of support.”

Censis offers implementation, onsite training, data integration, surgical instrument marking and other ongoing services to clients through its ServicePlus package. Learn more about clinical service offerings that can maximize your facility’s efficiencies.