Jun 2, 2022 | Sterile Processing Leadership

Marco? Polo! Utilizing Marked Instruments to Alleviate Missing Inventory

You clock in for another workday and change into your hospital shoes and scrubs. A quick stop by the PPE rack for a mask and a bouffant and you are ready to tackle the day. As you set up your workstation in assembly, you think “Today will be the day that all sets will be complete coming out of the washer, there will be no searching high and low for that one random missing instrument, the phone won’t ring continuously with the OR looking for things and I will finally break 75 sets assembled during my shift.” With the help of an instrument tracking system like CensiTrac, today can be that day!

The Search for the Missing Metz

To appreciate this feat, we must first travel back in history and go to the days BC – Before CensiTrac. In the (not so good) ol’ days, you find a hand tray waiting to be assembled. Following your paper count sheet, you begin placing instruments on the stringer and laying retractors and pick-ups neatly in the bottom of the pan (even though you know they’ll slide around and become all jumbled up anyway). You’re moving right along when you must pause because you can’t find the Metz Scissor that is supposed to be right before the bandage scissor on the stringer. You look through all the instruments that were in the hand tray. No Metz. You dig through all the other trays that just came from the washer. Surely, they’ve got to be in there somewhere! But after about five minutes of setting out instruments neatly so you can see each of them individually, you realize they aren’t mixed into the warm mass of surgical steel.

The real scavenger hunt then begins. You logically check the extra instrument cabinet first looking for a replacement. Mayo Scissors – Check. Iris Scissors – Check. Supercuts, Bandages, Jorgensens? Check, Check, Check. For the love of Christmas – NOT ONE SINGLE METZ?! You head on over to the Sterile Core and check the Metz Peel Pack bin. You guessed it – empty. Marco? Marco? MARCO??? The realization sets in. Today is not going to be your 75-tray day. If only there was a way to know where all containers AND individual instruments were at all times.

But WAIT – there is! We no longer live and work BC. We have instrument tracking systems like CensiTrac at our disposal which gives us the ability to track sets and individual instruments throughout the perioperative loop.

Let’s start our hand tray over again utilizing CensiTrac. You realize the Metz is missing. You look at the “Previously Missing Instruments” link on the count sheet in CensiTrac and see the Metz was not previously missing during the hand tray’s last assembly. You check in inventory to see where the hand tray had last been scanned. This set was last scanned into the Decontam Module. Maybe they’re still back there.

You pop into Decontam and ask your peers if they’ve seen a Metz that might have broken loose from the crowd. One of the techs says that she scanned some scissors with a broken box lock into the Maintenance Module but she wasn’t sure what type. A quick peek in the “Instruments Awaiting Maintenance” bin reveals a single, broken Metz laying sadly on top of the heap. The Metz mystery has been solved with just a couple of keystrokes in CensiTrac and a quick trip into Decontam. You are still on task for that 70+ tray day.

Now utilizing CensiTrac, you can perform an Instrument Search and immediately locate a replacement Metz for the hand tray. A quick scan of the CensiMark on the replacement Metz and your hand tray is on its way to being complete. Marco? POLO! Calamity averted!

Looking Out for a Surgeon’s Debakey

Meanwhile, up in the OR, they’ve started another case when suddenly Dr. Evans asks for a second set of Debakey tissue forceps for his assistant. Not the short ones that are in the set but the long ones like what he is currently using. As he grumbles about needing them on every case, the surgical tech glances up at the circulator. She’s already on her way out of the room to grab the requested Debakeys. She heads right for the bin in the Sterile Core where forceps are stored. With great dismay, she realizes the only forceps in the bin are either as long as her forearm which won’t work in a simple hernia case, or small, like the ones the surgical tech already offered. Ugh. The nurse knows there are more Debakeys somewhere in this facility, but where are they? Maybe on the wrong shelf but now she’s been gone for a minute too long and has to return offering some similar forceps to the sterile field. Dr. Evans takes them begrudgingly, mumbling about how they’ll do but they’re not technically used in a case like this. Had the circulator checked CensiTrac prior to running to the Sterile Core, she would have known sitting just one shelf up and one bin over, are the exact medium-sized Debakeys the doctor had requested just waiting to be used.

Mixing Clinic Instruments

Heading back to the SPD Department, the Wound Healing Clinic, Podiatry Clinic and OB/GYN Clinic all have dropped off instruments at the same time in Decontam. The staff member is new in Decontam and wrongly figures “Clinics are clinics” and dumps all the instruments into one pan to send through the washer. When all the instruments arrive on the assembly side, there might have been some panic and even a few bad words uttered back in the BC days, but with CensiTrac and marked instruments, no need to fret! All instruments are marked and owners have been assigned. With a quick scan of the instrument in the Peel Pack Module, a label is produced with the clinic name and the specific instrument. You also know the history of each individual instrument, when it was sterilized and where it’s been scanned.

Using Surgical Instrument Marking and Tracking Software to Alleviate Missing Instruments

Small inconveniences add up each day. Time wasted by staff looking for items. Doctors having to “make do” with instruments that are not exactly what they need. Not being able to track the individual instrument back to the patient. Instruments not getting returned to their owners. The most important goal in all aspects of sterile processing is patient safety. All of these things are counter-productive to attaining this goal.

SPD Departments process thousands of instruments each day and do a great job MOST of the time. However, by tracking at the instrument level utilizing CensiMark and CensiTrac, we can better pinpoint where everything has been and is going ALL of the time. This diminishes the constant game of “Marco Polo” with our instruments and allows our time to be better utilized taking care of patients and processing the instruments needed for their procedures.

At the advanced level, our instruments can be individually located at any given time eliminating the stress of missing instruments. Using laser equipment or an electrochemical marking system, we can place unique identifiers on each instrument. This allows you to utilize our Cognex barcode scanner to scan them within the CensiTrac system and track their location, usage, and historical data. Our team can join you on-site to train your staff in marking instruments, or we can mark them for you! The great thing about our CensiMark service is that it is scalable, we can mark instruments at your pace, as few or as many at a time, based on what works best for your facility. You will also have access to our project managers, client managers and clinical team from start to finish to assist you during the process and ensure an amazing finished product.

Once your instruments are marked and commissioned, our team can help you with data optimization and utilizing the system’s ability to track vendor instruments, substitutes, maintenance requirements, and more! Utilizing CensiMark and CensiTrac you have the best surgical asset management system to ensure your instruments are where they need to be when you need them every time! Speak with your client manager about how instrument marking can alleviate the daily instrument search.