Author: J. Vincent Sanchez (CRCST) | Client Manager

Mid-operation, a surgeon spots a soiled instrument in a tray of supposedly sterilized tools. The patient is under anesthesia as a whistle is blown, the operation halted, and the tray rushed back to the SPD. There, SPD staff huddle around a touchscreen where once the instrument has been scanned, they watch a full replay of where it was and what processes it went through—or didn’t go through—before it was sent to the OR.

The Replay Center

The instant replay tells them what they need to know: where the process ran off-course. They implement departmental improvements as the surgery resumes with a fresh tray of properly reprocessed instruments.

This is not what happens in most of today’s SPDs. Despite the life-or-death stakes of accurate reprocessing, the resources channeled to SPD tracking systems— $30,000–$50,000 annually in some smaller hospitals—are a pittance compared to what’s spent on, say, the accuracy of referee calls in the NBA.

Over the last several years, the NBA has funneled millions of dollars into its referee training and officiating program. In the 2014–2015 season, it launched its Replay Center, a facility in Secaucus, New Jersey, where referees watch games from a distance and provide real-time input to the officials on the court. Game footage is live-streamed on about 100 screens, and the only thing an on-court referee needs to do to get replay help on a call is twirl his finger in the air. That signal sends the Replay Center refs into action, reviewing footage of the play from multiple angles, zooming in, replaying, sending clips back to the on-court referee, and providing input on what call to make.

The Replay Center cost the NBA about $15 million to build over the course of two years, and that’s just one aspect of the overhaul to its officiating program. As of 2017, it also implemented a “data-driven game review system to create objective referee measurement standards and track progress regarding call accuracy,” according to an official release from the league. Coaches are now able to provide feedback to referees after each game through a special app. Last Two Minute reports provide a breakdown and assessment of every call or “notable non-calls” made in the last two minutes of games that are within three points at some time during that two-minute period.

In the Name of Transparency

On top of all of this, the NBA has established an Officiating Advisory Council, with such members as former U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Martin Dempsey and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, because apparently the quality of NBA officiating is of national importance.

All of these efforts—as well as the data the NBA gathers, analyzes and publishes—are done in the name of transparency and fairness. The NBA has a vested interest in maintaining the trust of players, coaches, and fans. It doesn’t want to leave any room for fans to claim the league is rigged. (And if all of this doesn’t prove that point, check @NBAOfficial on Twitter, where the replay footage that explains referee calls is posted for the most upset fans to see.)

“Officiating in the NBA, and all officiating in all sports, has evolved because of these things called analytics,” veteran NBA referee Steve Javie told reporter Ben Dowsett, and that should be something we can all agree on. Meanwhile, a study published in a 2015 edition of the Journal of Sports Analytics reports that an “empirical analysis for 113 games and 1229 total calls [in the NBA] finds no support of referee bias in foul calling,” and Dowsett reported: “The NBA continues to hover between 93 and 95 percent accuracy on all calls and non-calls its officials make.”

We can’t know whether this accuracy is because of all the resources poured into NBA officiating, but certainly, they couldn’t have hurt. The infrastructure alone around NBA referees is something to be admired (and if the funds are available, replicated).

Meanwhile, we can only imagine what a difference an SPD Replay Center could make for the work of reprocessing instruments that save lives.  And given the fact that the Toronto Raptors clinched the 2019 NBA Championship for the first time in franchise history, crazier things have happened.


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Study of bacterial flora associated with mobile phones of healthcare workers and non-healthcare workers. June 9, 2017.

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