How Workflow Tools Address Issues in SPD

The OR is the economic powerhouse in any hospital, driving as much as 70% of margins. However, ORs are only as strong as the sterile processing department (SPD) behind them. With every minute of OR downtime costing as much as $100, SPDs play a crucial role in sustaining a hospital’s profitability.

Common Inefficiencies and Issues in SPD

At Sullivan Healthcare Consulting, our decades of experience consulting hospital systems allows us to understand, anticipate, and neutralize common issues in SPD. Here, we will assess some of the common challenges in SPD and how your hospital can overcome them.

1. Incompatible Leadership Styles

SPD leadership needs to be involved and aware of what surgeons and OR teams are experiencing on the frontline. If they’re not, it can create inefficiencies, lead to poor patient outcomes, and put a strain on the bottom line.

SPD plays a unique role in determining a hospital’s OR success. Likewise, SPD leadership roles demand highly-specialized qualities to set their teams up for success. Such skills include:

  • Organizational diplomacy: SPD leaders must lead their teams and the larger organization by navigating conversations with vendors, CNOs, COOs, and other executives and directors. Similarly, emotional intelligence is essential for SPD leaders who must resolve conflicts swiftly and amicably under extreme pressure.
  • Intimate knowledge of regulations: The regulatory landscape is constantly shifting. SPD leaders must be attuned to any changes to operational or licensure requirements. Additionally, they need communication skills to disseminate that information efficiently.
  • Deep expertise with instruments: Understanding the ins and outs of every type of instrument and the manufacturer’s instructions is paramount for strong SPD leaders. This allows them to spot mistakes early and build strategies for future prevention.

2. Recruitment and Retention

We need not belabor the fact that every hospital is facing staffing challenges. However, SPDs are notoriously understaffed due to their speciality, making retention efforts even more vital. SPDs need to designate responsibilities in the most efficient way possible to avoid the burnout caused by scope creep and continually operating at the fringes of a team’s bandwidth.

SPDs that neglect retention efforts tend to be struck by a double blow: they lose staff, and the shortages that creates makes it difficult to recruit new staff. Proactive leadership is vital for recognizing and addressing your team’s pain points before they lead to a staffing crisis. One effective retention tool is the establishment of a career ladder for SPD technicians, providing a pathway for advancement.

3. Responsibility Delegation

With specialized staff, a dwindling workforce, and a finite number of hours in a day, it’s essential that SPD teams make the most of their time. An SPD leader who is attuned to the department’s day-to-day work is key for success, as they can delegate and direct their teams to success.

For example, when it comes to training and mentorship, it’s important to balance the clinicians’ needs for career development and growth while also understanding the demands that lead techs face. An SPD leader must proactively monitor those roles and responsibilities to satisfy their team.  

Examples of specialty roles critical to departmental effectiveness include SPD Educator, Instrument Specialist, Implant/Loaner Coordinator, Preceptor, and Instrument Tracking System Superuser.  These roles can be integrated into current supervisory or technician positions depending on size and complexity of each program.

4. Communication and Collaboration

When you’re under the amount of pressure most SPDs are, it’s easy for communication to fall by the wayside. When departments keep their noses to the grindstone, inter-departmental check-ins become less frequent, and communication diminishes. This puts both the OR and SPD at risk.

Communication is vital for SPDs. ORs should have daily huddles and planning meetings that look forward three days. Crucially, these meetings should be a collaboration between OR staff and SPDs.

Additionally, we advise organizations on creating an SPD quality council. This body establishes key quality indicators for real-time data and then acts upon them accordingly. Proactive planning and transparency within and between teams is crucial to achieving organizational imperatives.

Sullivan’s Workflow Tools and Consultants Improve SPD Efficiency 

Sullivan’s healthcare consultants are leaders in identifying and addressing the most common issues plaguing SPD. Our consultants’ innovative solutions have optimized SPDs to support their ORs, ultimately maximizing profitability without breaking the bank or sacrificing quality.

For example, our proprietary workflow tool has empowered SPDs across the country to get organized, stay organized, and deal with common issues effectively. The tool is customizable to meet each organization’s unique needs. Some of its capabilities include:

  • Providing workload for instrument reprocessing by functional area by time of day, crucial for staffing pattern determination (decontamination, assembly, sterilization).
  • Accounting for all other SPD services, including case cart assembly, OR core coverage, clinic satellite coverage, and endoscopy coverage.
  • Determining SPD facility and processing equipment requirements for washer disinfectors, assembly tables, pre-vac sterilizers, and more.

Our consultants will make recommendations such as tweaking leadership styles, developing specialty roles, creating daily huddles that include SPD, and setting up a quality council after assessing your SPD’s needs. These changes empower SPDs to overcome challenges and enable them to support a thriving OR.

If you’re ready to take your SPD to the next level, contact Sullivan Healthcare Consulting’s industry experts today.

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