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Archive January 2020 XXI, No. 1

Business Advisor: Unlock Hidden Savings in Central Sterile

3 ways your techs can lower your instrument reprocessing costs

Alicia Apostoles

Alicia Apostoles, RN, BSN, MSN, MBA


OrthoNY Surgical Suites
RIGHTSIZED When reprocessing techs prune unnecessary instruments from trays, the cost savings are significant.

Your certified sterile processing techs are the gatekeepers for the instruments that end up in your ORs. They compile trays and doublecheck sets to make sure instruments arrive on time and ready for use. There's perhaps no one in your facility who's more dialed into which tools are needed — and which aren't — for every case your surgeons perform. Tapping into their in-the-trenches insights will help you find cost-saving opportunities and improve your facility's bottom line.

Case in point: Certified sterile processing techs at my orthopedic surgery center worked with an instrument vendor to consolidate total knee instruments from 6 trays to 2 trays, which eliminated around 100 instruments and saved our facility $320 per case in reprocessing costs. Their efforts to consolidate instrument sets also:

  • decreased sterilization cycle times by 30 minutes;
  • prevented them from having to run 2 sterilizers (6 trays couldn't fit in a single load) to reprocess the instruments used during a single case;
  • decreased the time it took them to apply blue wrap to sterilized instruments from 45 minutes to 15 minutes; and
  • saved us $8.83 in the per-case costs of purchasing blue wrap, tray liners and chemical integrators.

Here's how to educate and empower your sterile processing techs to actively look for similar ways to reduce the amount of instrumentation that's used and subsequently reprocessed.

1Rightsize trays. When techs receive case carts in sterile processing, ask them to analyze the items surgeons did — and didn't — use to see if any "peel-packing" opportunities present themselves. It might be possible to create smaller custom peal-packed trays to avoid opening up a full instrument set from which only half the items are used.

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