Author: J. Vincent Sanchez, CRCST | Client Manager

As health systems continue to grow, the demand within CS/SPD to process and produce expands.  Which is why many organizations have reassessed their sterilization handling and processing, turning to offsite centers to help sustain growth, create space, and adhere to industry standards and guidelines. Offsite process handling success is easier said than done in my experience as a Tech III for a world-renowned hospital system. Below I highlight how preemptive and fluid communication, documentation, and data-driven decisions help keep track of all the moving parts.


Storage

Sterile storage policies affect more than just your offsite facilities, internal hospital storage is impacted as well. The potential exists for issues with IFUs and policy and procedure, wherein the operating policies at the offsite facility do not match or conflict with the operating policies at the healthcare facility. 

Most importantly, sterile items should be stored in a controlled environment that does not readily allow contamination. Further, once sterile items are placed into storage, they should only be handled as needed. Preventing excessive handling reduces the risk of compromising the sterile packaging and introducing contamination. In short, whatever policies a hospital uses to control its own sterile storage should also be in place at the chosen external processing facility. 

Offsite considerations: 

  • Store sterile items in a controlled environment that do not readily allow contamination
  • Once placed into storage, sterile items should only be handled as needed
  • Policies your hospital uses to control sterile storage should be in place at your external processing facility

Transportation

In most instances, offsite facilities usually serve more than one hospital. A few things you can document and share with all teams before any sets are sent out for processing are: 

  • Estimated turnaround times {based on sets}
  • Your department’s standards for processing based on IFUs 

Transportation needs to be clearly mapped, timed to ensure shortest time travel, and documented from standard routes to alternatives routes when traffic, accidents, or construction inevitably occur. Transportation standards should also be followed. This ensures that sterile and contaminated items remain completely separate at all times and handling, loading, and unloading are as frictionless as possible. 

Offsite considerations: 

  • Ensure that the vehicle used for transport is totally enclosed 
  • Create (and test) methods to ensure sterile and contaminated items remain separate 
  • Experiment with proper handling, loading, and unloading to ensure this process is as easy as possible 

Communication and Accessibility

In order to get any process moving, clear communication and accessible information must be prepared to keep everyone informed and moving in the right direction. As well as to manage, track, and improve.  

Communication between the main facility and the offsite facility is critical. Normally, when inventory is processed onsite, issues with sterility can be resolved relatively quickly. When inventory is processed offsite, there are additional constraints on time caused by the need to transport inventory between the hospital and the offsite processing center 

Offsite considerations: 

  • Shared Management: With a plethora of logistical points to manage, appointing 2-3 Lead Techs to direct your offsite management is advised. And pairing your Offsite Management team with a tracking system that collects your offsite data is essential to successful processes and growth. Plus, this is your go-to team for collecting information on how needs and expectations between the hospital and offsite processing facility are being met. 
  • Collection and Review: If you can’t track it, you can’t manage it. Data will be the clearest indicator of process success; so, setting up meetings to review how production, quality, and throughput data is keeping up will aid in your team’s success. 
  • Accessible Information: The crux of any good offsite system is readily accessible information. Meaning, that everyone on your team has access to process information (can everyone on your team answer the basic questions around your offsite processes?). Similar to how you store IFUs, creating a secure, shared environment to house all process documentation is the pinnacle of an offsite program. No one should be left in the dark of how this new process works. Plus, this is a great source to document process feedback from your team. 

 

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References

1. ANSI/AAMI ST79:2017 A Comprehensive Guide to Steam Sterilization (Arlington, VA: AAMI, 2017), p. 66, §11.1.1.

2. ANSI/AAMI ST79:2017 A Comprehensive Guide to Steam Sterilization (Arlington, VA: AAMI, 2017), p. 67, §11.2.1.

3.ANSI/AAMI ST79:2017 A Comprehensive Guide to Steam Sterilization (Arlington, VA: AAMI, 2017), p. 68, §11.3.5.

 

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