Your clinical team works hard enough caring for patients, so they deserve a break when it comes to turning over rooms, scrubbing surfaces clean and reprocessing the countless instrument trays your surgeons need to keep cases flowing through the ORs. Why should they do the dirty work if they don't have to?
1. Instrument washing
Mark Lunz, director of the surgical processing department at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Presbyterian Hospital, has always had the benefit of working with automated washers, but the tall task of turning around instruments and devices is more challenging than ever, even with the cleaning assistance. "The big challenge is everything is so specialized," says the 20-year veteran of instrument reprocessing. "Every service has unique instrumentation for every procedure."
The tools of surgery are first and foremost designed for function, with how easy they are to clean seemingly an afterthought. "We're usually the last group to be considered," says Mr. Lunz, matter-of-factly. "It's a fast-paced environment. Just to keep the instrument flow moving throughout the assembly line is challenge enough."
Enter the department's automated washers. They help his 42 reprocessing techs decontaminate instrument sets from upwards of 120 cases a day. Last March, as an indication of the department's volume, they assembled 9,300 trays and touched 327,000 instruments from UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Montefiore, hospitals separated by a city block and connected by a walking bridge.
Automated cart washers work like car washes, with different chambers engaging the instruments in the various stages of cleaning: pre-wash with enzymatic cleaner, general wash, pure water rinse and final dry cycle. "All the chambers can be running at the same time, so there's nice throughput," explains Mr. Lunz.
Upright washers engage instruments with the same functions, but without the added benefit of moving them through quickly in line.