Feb 24, 2021 | Sterile Processing Best Practice

Safely Reprocessing Robotic Arms Protects the Patient and Helps Your Hospital Manage Inventory

Hospitals that have embraced robotic surgery must also embrace robust tracking systems to reprocess da Vinci Surgical System robotic arms for patient safety and to keep costs under control.

Robotics offers significant advantages to surgeons to greatly increase their dexterity and precision in complex procedures. These minimally invasive techniques can also reduce patient recovery times and incision size. However, to realize the potential of robotic surgery, the tools must be carefully controlled and maintained. A sizeable number of hospitals are still relying purely on meeting autoclave parameters to decide if the arms are sterile. That practice doesn’t take into account the condition of the instrument before being put into the autoclave or minute imperfections that can trap contaminants.

Robotic instrument systems can cost over two million dollars to purchase. With the high price tag of this technology, hospitals will take every opportunity to manage their technology for safety and inventory control. A significant portion of the startup costs of a da Vinci System lies in the limited-reuse arms. Managing the sterile processing of these arms gives the facility more control over the reuse of the arms and gauging inventory to keep ORs running smoothly at the lowest possible cost.

Your Ace in the Hole: A Good Instrument Management System

Technicians tasked with cleaning, inspecting, and sterilizing these robotic arms may feel overwhelmed by the complexity of the instructions they must follow to ensure they are intact and completely cleaned. A good tracking system ensures that the only technicians who touch the robotic arms are fully trained and competent in doing so. Anything less puts patients at risk for postoperative infections and leaves the hospital vulnerable to litigation. One adage states that if it isn’t documented it didn’t happen. If you are doing everything right but don’t document it, evidence of careful compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions for use doesn’t exist.

Components of an Effective Instrument Management System

If sterile processing procedures deviate from the manufacturer’s instructions for use (IFUs) results can be unreliable. Proper use of a tracking system generates reliable reporting metrics that can be critical for determining the throughput capacity of sterile processing, and therefore, how many arms should be purchased. However, it’s unreasonable to expect your staff to memorize every step in every IFU in its exact sequence. An effective system guides technicians through the IFU with extra assistance, such as pictures or videos, for difficult or complex steps. Then trained personnel must be able to demonstrate their competence before touching the robotic arms.

Once technicians are trained and the right data captured, that data can be used to identify trends in usage, where the bottlenecks are, and throughput time. Technical support for the tracking system can help managers identify and extract the data they need for resource management.

Competent Reprocessing = Savings

Another common mistake hospitals with robotic systems make is not involving personnel responsible for the cleanliness and functionality of the arms in purchasing decisions. They have the best feel for the pace of demand in the ORs and the throughput time for inspection and cleaning of the arms. That knowledge can help purchasers anticipate the number and type of robotic arms needed.

Processing team members have the expertise of the processing system, but they can only use it with the support of an effective instrument management system and the training to give them confidence and competence in managing the process. To better understand what’s possible, learn how CensiTrac can help you safely track your robotic arms.