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Archive Hot Technology 2020

Sterile Reprocessing Goes High Tech

Automation, advanced imaging and even blue-wrap wrapping robots are transforming instrument care.

Bob Marrs

Bob Marrs, CRCST, CIS, CHL


QUICK READ Providing digital access to instrument-specific reprocessing instructions at the point of care leads to greater efficiencies.

Imagine a central sterile processing department that looks like a high-tech manufacturing facility, with employees working alongside advanced machines with conveyer belts, sending dirty instruments through the entire reprocessing cycle. After the instruments are automatically pulled through the washer-disinfector, technicians assemble clean instruments alongside robots that neatly and efficiently wrap finished trays in blue wrap. It seems like something out of a futuristic flick, but that's the future of the central sterile processing department thanks to new automation, robotics and even the exploration of virtual or augmented reality. Here are a few of the new trends in instrument reprocessing you should have on your radar.

1. Automation

Nearly every reprocessing equipment manufacturer now offers some sort of automated washer-disinfector. These systems feature automated conveyors that pull racks full of instruments into the washer. All a staff member has to do is place the manually cleaned instrument tray on the rack, and the washer will do the rest.

This conveyer system not only frees up staff to focus on other tasks, but it also can extend the life of your equipment. How? When I worked in sterile processing departments, there were washers I favored over others. By automating the process, the instrument rack is systematically pulled into the next available washer, meaning they get equal use, which will cut down on the wear of the equipment.

When the washing cycle is finished, the washer pushes the racks out and onto a conveyor belt on the assembly side of the department. A staff member there can simply pick up the sets and place them onto their workstation before beginning to inspect and reassemble them. A similar principle applies here, with the double-sided sterilizers pulling in the carts, shutting the door, running the cycle and opening on the other side where the instruments are cooled and ready to be placed into storage.

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