Central sterile departments in healthcare facilities continue to struggle with efficiency and accuracy issues as they are under continued pressure to meet more stringent tracking requirements. Accurate sterilization data is critical to patient safety issues like secondary infection. RFID can improve these operations tremendously – that’s why Xerafy developed its own RFID-based surgical instrument tracking solutions.
This week, Moses Chang, director of Xerafy’s healthcare business, is the featured guest on the Beyond Clean podcast, which focuses on sterile processing issues in healthcare. Chang spoke to hosts Hank Balch, Michael Matthews, and Justin Poulin about RFID’s role in surgical instrument management.
During the podcast, Chang explained how RFID works and outlined some of the current issues around accurate instrument tracking faced in both the operating room (OR) and sterile processing department. “Even today, much of the management of instruments is still very highly manual and dependent on human intervention,” Chang said. “There’s very little automation.”
Matthews, Balch and Poulin also commented that they have seen an increased interest in RFID for sterilize processing applications.
RFID and other automatic identification technologies are increasingly part of the conversation when it comes to medical device tracking, driven partly by the FDA’s UDI initiative for identification as well as similar efforts in Europe and China. In developing countries, where manual processes aren’t as entrenched, adoption is happening much faster.
“[Central sterile departments] now have the ability to digitize every single item, creating automation that really reduces mundane tasks such as counting and data entry, thereby reducing costs; automation that forces compliance, thereby increasing safety; and enables the capture of valuable data that helps not only the central sterile department, but the hospital as a whole,” Chang said.
Once deployed, hospitals benefit through more accurate tracking, better compliance with sterilization requirements, and reduced costs because staff spend less time looking for missing instruments prior to expensive surgeries, or purchasing extra assets.
With RFID, hospitals can identify underutilized assets, which can help them re-evaluate which instruments are included in surgical kits. “Hospitals are repeatedly processing these instruments at a cost of anywhere from 75 cents to a dollar-plus per cycle,” Chang said. “With RFID in the operating room, we know exactly which instruments are leaving the back table and entering the sterile field. We can now capture utilization data for every single procedure.”
The conversation also touched on the role that RFID can have in a healthcare organization’s use of Big Data and analytics.
“Unless the enabling data capture occurs, there can’t be any processing or decision making from that data that really benefits the customer,” Chang said. He added that this lack of data capture is hindering organization’s ability to truly leverage Big Data.
“These are operational efficiency questions that can only be answered with the ability to capture data autonomously,” Chang said. “There is not enough emphasis on the ability to capture data in the first place.”