Mar 24, 2022 | Sterile Processing CensiTrac Best Practice

SPD Best Practices: Utilizing Your Instrument Tracking System to the Fullest

Prior to working for Censis, when somebody mentioned “Instrument Tracking,” my mind went to digital count sheets with a little bit of electronic sterilization record keeping mixed in for good measure. However, technology has come a long way and sterile processing departments have become much more complex, which makes having an instrument tracking system a no-brainer. Using a surgical asset management solution like CensiTrac, can help you do so much more to manage all aspects of your Sterile Processing Department and OR.


To follow your workflow from start to finish: Let’s start by getting down and dirty in Decontam. Case carts and dirty instruments arrive from the OR and staff scan them into the Decontam Module. There are several reasons to capture this scan point. First and foremost, you are changing the location of the sets as knowing where your inventory is one of the primary goals of an instrument tracking system. Secondly, it records in the history of the items that the cleaning/disinfecting process has been conducted. If there was a recall issued for a load that the container was on, the decontam scan will clear that container’s recall. Lastly, staff receive productivity credit for scanning those case carts and sets into Decontam.

Once the manual cleaning is complete, the next stop is the Mechanical Washers. Scanning sets to the ultrasonic or washers again gives you an exact location of your items. When the OR calls and says, “Hey – where is Dr. Smith’s Super Special One-Of-A-Kind Set?” One quick look in your Inventory Module and you’ll be able to respond with “It just got put in Washer #3 12 minutes ago and will be done in 18 minutes.” In addition to the tracking benefits gained by scanning to the washer, you also have the ability to electronically document test loads, descale cycles, washer screen/arm checks and other Instruction for Use (IFU) recommended upkeep.


18 minutes after that OR call, that Super Special Set along with everything else in the load comes out of the washer and arrives in Prep & Pack. Here staff start the assembly process and get those aforementioned digital count sheets and peel pack labels. While count sheets and labels are an integral part of any tracking system, an instrument tracking system can do so much more during assembly. Priority levels can be added to sets to help staff manage and prioritize their workload. Individual instruments can be marked as requiring an Integrity Test and outlines what the test consists of. This is a great tool to ensure these safety checks are being captured for lap instruments, rongeurs and osteotomes. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Photos and media can be added to individual instruments and entire sets to help staff assemble items correctly. How many scopes have you had to repair/replace because the cap was not on prior to sterilization? You can hopefully reduce this costly occurrence by putting an assembly comment in the container type “Ensure Cap is ON Prior to Sterilization!”


After assembly, staff build sterilizer loads with their containers and peel packs. Again, you can rely on your instrument tracking system to ensure work is done correctly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s IFUs. Our solution, CensiTrac, provides safety checks to ensure items are being sterilized on correct cycles. You can scan receipts and indicators into the load record. It incorporates the biologicals on the Load Indicators page to ensure items are not released prior to the biological being read and resulted. All of this is wrapped up in a tidy package with the Load Report which gives you a complete, electronic record. This record is a breeze to locate when Joint Commission is on-site and asks to see some obscure Load Results from 18 months back. Additionally, you are saving money (no storage fees, less paper and printer costs) and saving the trees. Make it a goal to be paper-free by 2023!


After items are sterile, their next stop is either storage, case carts or directly to the OR if they are needed right away for a case (remember that Super Special set? That baby is headed straight to the OR!). Again returning to the most important aspect of your Instrument Tracking System, scanning to the various locations ensures you know where your items are at all times. When the OR calls looking for a Major set, you can go into your inventory and tell them with ease “There are two on Rack 1, Shelf B, another one in Case Cart #15, one in the sterilizer and one in OR #3.” This eliminates SPD staff having to drop what they are doing to go run off to try to hunt down major trays for the OR. Once your OR staff starts using CensiTrac, they don’t even have to call SPD. They can look up the locations for themselves. There is nothing like the sound of silence in SPD when that phone stops ringing. Until the vendor rep interrupts by ringing the doorbell and dropping off that load of LOANERS!

Loaner Management

No need to fear, CensiTrac has all the tools you need to handle loaner trays. In the loaner module, you have the ability to create specific labels for every tray that will have the case date, case time and physician’s name. There is also a great, often overlooked field at the top “Case Procedure.” By assigning a name to a case “Stryker Total Hip,” all the trays entered will be saved and auto-populate the next time the same case is entered. This is a HUGE timesaver on those days when a vendor shows up with 40 trays for that Spine Revision. You can also enter the weights of the trays when you are creating the case to help with sterilizer compliance. Another great, money-saving feature is the ability to attach photos to the loaner trays. This way your department does not get stuck with the bill for an instrument that the rep claims was “lost” at your facility when it may never have been in the set when it arrived.

If you like the Loaner Module in CensiTrac, you will LOVE LoanerLink. This is another solution that takes much of the onus off SPD staff related to loaners and puts it back on the surgery scheduler and the vendor representative. SPD staff spends less time doing paperwork and more time processing sets.

Endoscope Management

The Scope Module is an area to capture all aspects of flexible endoscopes/HLD items. In Inventory, you can enter all the scope information, links to the manufacturer’s website and cleaning steps. You can capture the pre-clean/bedside clean, the leak test, ATP tests, channel checks and any other processes you do during your scope processing. In your settings, you are able to set an expiration time for scopes and have a priority list populate so you can easily see which scopes need reprocessing. The scope label is also different from the container label as it contains the leak test information and expiration date. CensiTrac also offers ScopeTrac Advanced which provides more great options for scope processing such as a hands-free processing experience, the ability to run two scopes in one load and additional testing/resulting fields.

I know you are saying to yourself right now “Self, there are a lot of things that I had no idea an instrument tracking system like CensiTrac would do for me. Where do I even begin?” As we always say, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” There are many ways to start getting the most out of your instrument tracking system now that will have you utilizing its fullest capabilities in no time!