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Building An OR Instrument Priority List In Sterile Processing

Updated: Apr 25


Back in the 1980's Just In Time inventory (JIT) stocking was catching on. The goal was to reduce on-hand inventory. Inventory was ordered and stocked in the shortest time possible before the OR needed it, generally twenty-four hours or less. Not having a well-oiled process for OR instrument needs creates a JIT delivery system in the Sterile Processing department. That may not be all that bad, especially if you can reduce the inventory. However, sustaining a good delivery process is more difficult without proper management processes.


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Knowing The Lead Time For The Priority Instruments In Sterile Processing


The key to a successful instrument delivery program is knowing your lead time. Working on what is needed first, and in some instances focusing on one-of-a-kind sets. These are the priority instruments in Sterile Processing.


Knowing your Inventory


To know what to work on, you must first understand what is in your current inventory and where it is. It is easier said than done. Are the priority instruments on the shelf or somewhere in transition?


Merging Software


Many Sterile Processing departments utilize instrument tracking systems to manage their instrument trays. Few utilize the software to address their priority needs. Merging the OR case management software with the SPD's instrument management software helps you prioritize your instrument needs. The OR management system feeds the case needs to the instrument tracking system. The instrument tracking system evaluates the stock on the shelves and prioritizes instrument needs by case start times.


Involving the OR


Without good scanning practices, developing a good priority list will fail. The OR teams need to be involved in the scanning process. Scanning instruments to all utilization points provides the accuracy you need. A case in point is canceled OR cases need to be scanned back to the SPD department when the case is canceled. This allows the inventory to be placed back into availability and reduces the items on the needs list.


Keeping Your Data Clean


Instrument tracking systems that have poor data impede the process. Sets no longer in use or out for repair need to indicate that in the system. Otherwise, the priority-setting process fails. The system sees the inventory as available. You need to evaluate your data constantly. An excellent way to do it is to assess the last time instrument sets were scanned. Most, if not all, instrument tracking systems have a report that can be run to produce feedback on the last scan and the last scanned location. If sets haven't been scanned for extended periods, they must be evaluated. A good rule of thumb would be a maximum of six months of non-movement.


Dedicating Staff


As I indicated earlier in this blog, tracking and managing instrument inventories is easier said than done. I recommend having staff that has a focus on managing both the instrument tracking software and the OR case management software. OR case preference cards need to be clean so that inventory is unnecessarily tied up when not required. The instrument tracking software needs to be clean to provide accurate feedback. Limiting access to the database of both software systems is essential. Without a dedicated team, the software system often becomes corrupt and invaluable.


Finishing Touches


The best part of designing a winning approach to instrument priority management is having the correct item, in the right place, at the right time. It also builds confidence in the case management process and confidence in the SPD team. Lastly, it reduces instrument trays from being hastily put together, reduces stressing the SPD team, and reduces errors.


The instrument priority process can be developed and managed manually as well. The process takes more time extensively, is less accurate, and is less timely. However, we will discuss that at a later time.


At Evolved Sterile Processing, our consultants have a greater focus on sterile processing. With our decades of experience, we will help you develop better processes and educational resources for your staff.



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