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The Importance of Clean Data in SPD

Information Technology in today’s healthcare world

Information technology can provide a vast amount of data to almost any department located inside of a healthcare facility. With today’s immense world of technology it can be difficult to implement new data and software solutions without understanding the unique benefits they offer. In the world of sterile processing, we know this dynamic and fast paced unit requires a lot of data to perform efficiently and effectively and relies heavily on information sharing. Many systems available today can help sterile processing professionals ensure their workflow is of top quality, efficient and error free.

Any sterile processing department (SPD) should be provided with detailed insights regarding their SPD equipment, surgical instrument tracking software (ITS) and other tools available within their organization that can help improve their processes. Having a complete understanding of what is available will allow their tasks to be more proficient and help them to monitor processes, as well as their equipment, effectively. With a common understanding of the available information, departments can work together to overcome barriers quickly. These programs can also help leaders anticipate future events helping to prevent patient risks and poor outcomes by collecting data and trends in real time. Many software solutions available to healthcare facilities can provide a form of data connectivity, allowing the programs to exchange information. This is critically beneficial for operating room personnel, materials management, SPD staff, and even surgeons because the decisions they make are often times based on the information  being provided to them and documented. A patient’s care could ultimately be affected if reliable information isn’t provided.  

What does it mean to have clean data?

Regardless of the program you have in place, if the data, media and information inside the system being provided to the workers isn't clean, it might be telling the "wrong story". The best way to define clean data in the context of sterile processing would be; all information being utilized to support equipment  and operations in any software application should be accurate, updated, and managed by dedicated personnel to provide real time info that supports effective and efficient processes.

If your department is using an instrument tracking software (ITS) program but the media and instrument inventory is outdated or inaccurate, your team could be making errors that are not their fault but based on what is being provided to them. This often leads to an increase in quality defects, rather than the expected decrease. The information in your ITS should be guiding each team member with easy to use and easy to read instrument information as well critical processing steps.


The information in any system is only as good as its accuracy. These are some examples of SPD clean data requirements;


  • Count sheets with proper instrument naming and accurate instrument quantities
  • Media images that provide accurate instrument attributes and characteristics
  • Reports from ITS that are customizable, easy to create and understand
  • Preference cards with accurate set names and quantities that match the information found in the ITS
  • Equipment or machine numbers and naming conventions that match across all systems
  • Storage nomenclature that is organized in an efficient manner and is clearly understood by both the operating room and sterile processing personnel
  • Sterilization records that are organized and stored in a safe manner, preferably in a digital format, that can be exported, shared and retrieved easily if necessary
  • Barcodes and labeling methods that support the functional workflow of the department and provide traceability
  • Verifying sterile processing equipment is performing properly and ability to monitor trends in equipment errors or alarm messages
  • Access to service records and ability to monitor equipment performance in real time



When looking at the cleanliness of a software program it’s important to understand that while the various systems communicate or “share information” it doesn't necessarily mean they are speaking the same language. If the nomenclature isn't aligned between an instrument tracking system and a patient record program you could be making decisions, or reacting, based upon inaccurate information. For example, if the OR team is dependent on their preference card to dictate the quantity of items available, or their possible location on the storage shelf, and this information hasn’t been updated or referenced against the ITS, they could be looking for things that are not available, causing delays or double work. Often times issues arise and it’s too late to remedy in an effective manner. Making sure your department’s data is clean, before generating reports, is a critical step in the process, especially if you have a variety of team members inputting information. System compliance relies on the input of accurate information from all users and a standardized method for managing the program.

Sterile processing can utilize reports and analytics to help identify quality defects, monitor productivity, equipment performance and track inventory.  Having only a few users that are authorized to make changes improves the accuracy of your data. The more who have access to make changes to the information, the larger the opportunity for errors.

If a naming convention is used in one program, that provides information to the SPD technicians using their “lingo”,  it may not follow the terminology the OR staff uses to communicate, causing misunderstandings. For instance, you may have three different types of surgical sets within your inventory, one that is a disposable kit comprised of disposable parts and accessories to support the case, another that contains the specialized rigid scope to be used during the surgery and a third set that contains a combination of stainless steel instruments. If the preference card requests only one standard name, rather than all three set names, how will the team identify the proper sets to provide to the surgical team? This could cause a lack of inventory being picked or a delay in the surgical case when items are missing. This rationale is the same for surgical instrument naming so ensure all your systems use the same name for each unique surgical instrument.