Facility/Position: Sterile Processing Director of a Large Health Facility in Southern California

Q: What is the biggest impact of dirty data on your department?

”For me one of the most telling signs of bad data is tray errors. When SPD leadership is getting called to the OR Suites because of wrong instruments and in some cases missing instruments…be on the look out for bad data.

I realized this initially about 10 years ago when I was working as a SPD Manager at a hospital in Sacramento. I was called into the Operating Rooms several times because of wrong instruments. Surgeons would scream “These Allis Clamps are too long! Why can’t the staff put my Adson Forcep on my tray!?!” (he wanted the 1X2 w/ TC inserts, not the normal 1X2). In other cases, the OR would ask for instruments using whatever name was tribe knowledge: “Send me the Jo’s Hoe!”. Meanwhile, the SPD staff were expected to learn the manufacturer names of the instruments, what the OR called the instruments, and translate all of that to match the bad descriptions and lack of catalog numbers on the tray count sheets. Sound like a train wreck? Well, it was a train wreck. And it was a train wreck that we had to fix by manually updating the count sheets which were excel files at the time. The project took about two years and resulted in massive improvements in error rates.”

Q: How is dirty data impacting your department today?

“Today we have instrument tracking systems with data that has about the same data integrity that we had 10 years ago. We also have heightened regulations and surveyors who are looking to ensure we are following the manufacturer IFU’s for reprocessing surgical instruments. We have outbreaks where patients are becoming very sick and in some cases dying because manufacture IFU’s are not being followed for cleaning instruments and scopes. What I don’t understand is how SPD staff are able to comply with manufacture IFU’s if they have bad data?

In our instrument tracking systems we can build sterilization parameters and even cleaning steps for instruments, matching the manufacture’s IFU. How do you do that if you do not know the manufacture? If you do not have the right catalog number? How do you ensure your staff is putting the right forcep on a tray if they do not have a good description?

Today’s technology has limitless potential for improving operations, efficiencies, accuracy, and patient safety. None of that can happen with bad data.”

Q: What steps are you taking to cleanse your data?

“For me to cleanse my hospital’s database, I’m looking at a 2-5 year project plan with 1-2 dedicated full time employees. I would never get administration’s approval to dedicate 2 FTE’s to cleaning SPD’s database. My patients cannot afford to risk me taking 2-5 years to ensure my staff are reprocessing their trays correctly.

I met Ascendco at IAHCSMM. They shared with me how their company works, how they can do data cleanse (as well as other services), and timeline and costs. I was able to build a business plan, and get them contracted. The contract was signed in January 2019. By March 2019, I had clean data for my top 80% flow. My department’s error rates dropped from around 110 per month to 8 per month. I went from spending most of my time in the Operating Room listening to surgeon complaints to being able to plan our strategic initiatives.

What would have taken me 2-5 years, took 3 months. If you need a magic bullet to reduce your error rate, look at how clean your data is. If it’s not clean, talk to Ascendco. Our patients deserve better.”