How a Large Academic Medical Center Uncovered $250,000 Annual Cost Savings

A critical pillar of surgical services, the sterile processing department (SPD) requires absolute attention to detail to ensure patient safety and surgeon satisfaction while simultaneously following rigorous reprocessing practices for optimal efficiency. If attention to one domain outweighs the other, there is a significant imbalance within the surgical ecosystem. The cost to reprocess a single instrument can add up quickly if your OR uses 60,000 instruments a day. Similarly, purchasing too many instruments in a given period can be just as costly. This was the case for one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers on the east coast.

The Client

  • Academic medical center on the east coast
  • Level One regional trauma and burn center
  • 30+ operating rooms

The Challenge

This large academic medical center experienced significant issues within its sterile processing program, causing deficiencies in the quality of service and high instrument costs.

Root causes for the cost and quality issues included:

  • An excessive number of overstocked and underutilized trays
  • Lack of staffing and incorrect staffing patterns/assignments
  • Lack of protocols and proactive interactions between the OR and SPD in planning and problem-solving

These recurring issues resulted in finger-pointing and continued bleeding of financial resources. In response, leadership sought outside guidance from Sullivan Healthcare Consultants (SHC) to reduce instrument loss throughout the instrument use and reprocessing phases of the surgical encounter.

Key Program Revisions Completed by SHC

  • Implemented OR/Sterile Processing Communication/Operational Task Force
  • Assessed management team experience, expertise, and span of control of the Sterile Processing Department
  • Developed staffing plan to optimally support the current volume and workload demands
  • Identified areas of non-compliance with national standards for instrument care, cleaning, and reprocessing
  • Developed and implemented postoperative Instrument Care Protocols
  • Developed and implemented Operating Room and Sterile Processing staff education program related to instrument care and handling
  • Developed ‘real time’ instrument loss/damage tracking system
  • Identified inconsistencies and redundancy in ordering, instrument repair tracking, and instrument replacement processes
  • Initiated instrument tray utilization, reconfiguration, and standardization project
  • Developed and implemented Sterile Processing Department policy and staff education plan to reduce autoclave ‘wet loads’
  • Purchased and implemented an instrument tracking system
  • Developed an organizational plan to ensure clinical and managerial expertise and educational support within the Sterile Processing program of Perioperative Services

SHC Results

  • Established opportunity for $250,000 cost savings per year for instrument replacement
  • Reduced $12,000 per year in instrument processing rework due to ‘wet loads’
  • Reduced staff and surgeon frustration
  • Developed a proactive and collaborative approach to resolving identified issues

SHC’s analysis uncovered that the cost of instrument repair and replacement was $500K annually, more than double compared to peer facilities.

Experience The Sullivan Difference

If your OR is experiencing instrument loss, inefficient workflow, or increased ‘wet loads,’ your healthcare organization could benefit from an SPD assessment from Sullivan’s team of experts. SHC maximizes the strategic goals of your organization through expert surgical services consulting. Put our deep understanding of clinical standards and best practices to work for your organization. Learn more about our SPD consulting services or contact us today to discuss how we can improve your organization’s performance and uncover meaningful cost savings.

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