Traditionally, a facility’s Sterile Processing Department (SPD) is built onsite and instruments are processed “in-house”. However, times are changing. In recent years, Offsite Reprocessing Centers (OSRC) are becoming more and more common.
Planning and designing an OSRC makes sense for some facilities, but may not be an ideal solution across the board. We have a saying at Belimed, “prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.” Every health system is unique and should take the time to explore this for themselves. There’s no cookie-cutter answer to whether or not you should move reprocessing offsite.
Belimed’s top priority is ensuring that a customer’s SPD is as effective and efficient as possible. While the following information is a good place to start if you’re considering an offsite SPD, we wholeheartedly endorse partnering with an experienced consultant to help you understand what’s in your best interest given your data, logistics, and goals.
About Offsite Processing Centers (OSRC)
OSRCs are typically shared by hospitals, clinics, and surgery centers within the “health system” or “IDN” (Integrated Delivery Network). It’s important to note that an Offsite Center reduces (but does not eliminate) the need for sterile processing equipment at each new facility that is built, acquired, or renovated.
Offsite Centers can be larger and have more equipment than a typical hospitals’ Sterile Processing Department…however, bigger is not always better (especially in Sterile Processing).
Why Offsite Centers are Taking Off
Surgery Centers are becoming increasingly more popular. Sterile processing equipment accounts for some of the largest initial purchases that a surgery center will need to make.
Where multiple surgery centers, renovations, and new builds are planned within a health system, it could very well make sense to designate a central reprocessing department that services all or some of the facilities. In this case, an OSRC should be explored as part of their expansion plans.
The Pros: Why Build an Offsite Reprocessing Center?
The benefits of an OSRC are different for each facility. For hospitals and surgery centers that need more space within their facility to expand the number of ORs or for any other valuable use, building an OSCR may be a good idea.
Other “Pros” of OSRC that make them attractive to certain health systems:
- System-wide standardization of cleaning and sterilization processes
- Quality control
- Instrument inventory control
- More room for growth and evolution
- Health systems in “growth mode” have more freedom to move different specialties around to different sites as needs change and evolve for the health system throughout the years.
The Cons: Why NOT Build an Offsite Reprocessing Center?
What are the reasons a facility may choose to keep its SPD onsite? Maybe they don’t have enough facilities or surgical cases to justify an offsite reprocessing center. Perhaps they’re a health system or facility with slower growth plans. If instrument cleaning quality and space aren’t issues, then there’s no real reason to move offsite.
Keeping things onsite allows facilities to maintain more control over sterile processing. Very busy hospitals tend to prefer keeping their reprocessing on-site due to volume and unforeseen circumstances that invariably come up every day. Keep in mind, with offsite reprocessing centers, the instrument turnaround time will necessarily increase due to instrument transport times. Having an in-house SPD eliminates that delay.
When considering an OSRC, set your trajectory properly. You are making decisions now that will impact your hospital operations and patients for the next 15+ years. Be sure and partner with people who are experienced and can help guide you through the process of understanding if an offsite reprocessing center is right for your health system.
Proper planning is paramount. There are two distinct priorities that must be tackled simultaneously in order to deliver a “finished product” that not only is READY to be used as soon as possible but IS being used as soon as possible.
Those two priorities are:
- Designing and Building the Offsite Reprocessing Center
- Logistics for operationalizing the Offsite Reprocessing Center
Before You Decide
Always vet out the need for an offsite center first with an expert that knows what to look for during the vetting process. Go in with an open mind that an offsite center may NOT be the way to go in your specific case.
Building a beautiful offsite center is one thing…planning for logistics and operations is an entirely different thing and requires as much if not more attention than the build itself. Do yourself a favor and HIRE A CONSULTANT. You don’t know what you don’t know.
- Additional surgical instruments will be needed when going offsite to account for a longer turnaround time
- Every offsite center MUST have an Executive Sponsor at the C-Level to ensure project success
- DOT and other regulatory guidelines will affect the transportation of instruments from one building to another
- Off-site reprocessing will be a paradigm shift for many healthcare organizations. It will take proper and adequate training for all staff.
If You Do Go Offsite
Time is money. Once the project begins, it is important to have a defined tentative “go-live” date that everyone is working toward. We always recommend teaming up with an experienced consultant when sailing into the unknown waters of offsite reprocessing. They can help you avoid costly mistakes and advise you on how to minimize risk during the transition.
Be Prepared To:
- Identify ways to improve processes in the new facility (vs. the old facility)
- Address surgeon apprehension about off-site reprocessing
- Perform process testing and run real-world scenarios at the off-site before going live
- Devise proper contingency plans to offset major startup issues
- Maintain staff morale during the transition (at the off-site and legacy locations)
- Provide ongoing staff training, for all shifts, at the off-site during the first 90 days after go-live
- Celebrate achievements and milestones with the internal teams within the first 90 days after go-live
Consult the Engineers of Confidence
Each health system should explore the possibility of an offsite center and how it could affect their productivity, quality, and bottom line. We recommend that you have a trusted partner to help guide you through the uncharted waters. As engineers of confidence, the Belimed team helps our customers collect and aggregate their own data into a format that enables them to make the best possible decision for the future of sterile processing within their health system… now and 15 years from now.