At large health care facilities, it’s not uncommon for managers in the sterile processing department to spend valuable time approving hundreds of surgical instrument substitutions each week. This can delay tray assembly and frustrate technicians who need to manually input this information and wait for approval before proceeding.

To help alleviate these pain points, Censis recently released a new automated Instrument Cross-Reference Tool designed to help CensiTrac users quickly and accurately identify surgical instrument substitutions during tray assembly. The tool offers instant access to a pre-populated database of up to 250,000 substitutions across manufacturers, eliminating the need for sterile processing technicians to manually create a substitution list.

The Instrument Cross-Reference Tool was created in response to common challenges Censis teams learned about through daily interactions with customers. Sterile processing departments and operating room nurses alike frequently mentioned tray accuracy as a big challenge at their facilities, said Seamus Johnson, senior software developer at Censis, who helped bring the cross-reference tool to life.

“CensiTrac doesn’t know out of the box when one make and model of instrument is a substitute for another, and that’s the gap that the cross-reference tool fills,” said Johnson, who has been with Censis since 2003.

Now, much of that information can be automatically accessed with just the flip of a switch. The cross-reference tool takes the database that knows about viable surgical instrument substitutions and aligns it with a customer’s catalog, ensuring only surgical instruments that your facility has on hand will be identified as appropriate substitutes. This is especially helpful for facilities that have ordered from different vendors in the past, according to Jacob Long, CCSVP, director of sales engineering at Censis.

“Many hospitals have been open a long time and have ordered through different manufacturers over the years. Over time, they’ll start to have the same instruments from different vendors. No one is there to actively document this,” said Long. “The cross-reference tool does that management for our customers automatically so they don’t have to worry about manually telling CensiTrac each time they buy from a new vendor.”

Here, we’ll take a look at how the new Instrument Cross-Reference Tool can make life easier for CensiTrac users throughout their facility.

What benefits does the Instrument Cross-Reference Tool provide?

To easily explain how the new cross-reference tool functions, Johnson likens surgical instruments to different makes and models of cars.

“The count sheet might say a tray needs to have a Honda Civic, for example. But if you don’t have a Honda Civic, everybody knows you could get a Nissan Sentra and have basically the same thing,” said Johnson. “There’s this concept of equivalent instruments.”

According to Johnson, one good example of a surgical instrument with many substitution options is a #3 knife handle. Virtually all instrument manufacturers make a knife handle of this size, and they’re about as close to being identical as you can get, said Johnson.

By tapping into this knowledge, the cross-reference tool offers many advantages to make tray assembly more efficient.

Improves tray accuracy

The Instrument Cross-Reference Tool helps sterile processing techs identify appropriate substitutes for instruments the facility may not have available. This helps technicians assemble trays more accurately and offers reassurance that their substitutes are equivalent to the specific instrument listed on their count sheet. Tray accuracy is also improved simply by having extra information about each instrument readily available when needed.

Minimizes tray assembly time

Using the tool, appropriate substitutes for each instrument are automatically displayed during tray assembly. This eliminates the need for sterile processing techs to search through a lengthy book of substitutions. Instead, they can quickly find what they need, which increases throughputs.

Makes training easier

New technicians can be more independent and confident in their role by having the information they need given to them automatically. This ease of access reduces the amount of time spent training and helps them learn about each instrument as they go. This is especially important given the sterile processing industry’s high turnover rate.

Ability to customize substitution rules

The cross-reference tool is scalable and customizable, which allows hospitals and surgery centers to implement facility-specific substitution rules. These rules can be applied across the board or customized to each provider based on their preferences.

Reduces costs

Every reusable surgical instrument costs about $0.50 to reprocess, according to Johnson. This may not seem like much, but if you have a tray with 100 instruments and have to reprocess them twice as often due to assembly errors, the money can add up quick.

“Many instruments are small and look similar. A lot of them just look like different kinds of scissors,” said Johnson. “Without a tool like this, it’s hard for sterile processing technicians to be 100% accurate during tray assembly. And if there’s just one thing missing, the nurse has to go get another copy of the tray.”

Reducing the amount of trays that are returned due to errors not only saves money – it also saves time and manpower and helps prevent surgery delays.

Prioritizing customers’ needs

While many CensiTrac users are in the early stages of testing the cross-reference tool at their facilities, Johnson and Long hope it will dramatically improve their process efficiencies and alleviate common pain points. During a pilot test, a new customer spent two weeks having instruments marked. When they turned on the cross-reference tool, they noticed a significant reduction in the amount of substitution rules they had to review each week.

Johnson believes that Censis’s intense focus on identifying and meeting customers’ needs is what sets Censis apart.

“Censis is an independent company that focuses primarily on how we can help improve the efficiencies in our customers’ processes and how we can enhance the standard of care they’re able to deliver for patients. You’ll see that motive throughout the design of the application,” said Johnson. “When we decide to release new solutions or services, we’re focused on our customers’ problems first.”

The Instrument Cross-Reference Tool is only available to CensiTrac users utilizing instrument-level tracking. Customers who are interested in trying the tool at their facility or want to learn more about it should contact their dedicated client manager.

If you’re not already a CensiTrac user, learn more about the industry’s most capable and comprehensive surgical instrument tracking system today by requesting a demo. Censis also offers solutions for instrument marking, loaner tray management and endoscope reprocessing in addition to clinical services and support to improve your perioperative efficiency. Contact us to learn more.