Contaminated endoscopes are one of several medical devices frequently associated with outbreaks of healthcare associated infections (HAI). Affecting over 1.7 million patients in the U.S. each year and leading to nearly 99,000 unnecessary deaths, HAI also cost hospitals in excess of $45 billion annually. Endoscopes in particular can be difficult to clean as most flexible scopes cannot be heat sterilized. Additionally, many scopes are designed with multiple channels that make cleaning and disinfecting problematic. However, there are ways to ensure proper reprocessing (cleaning and sterilizing/disinfection) has occurred through the use of the following methods:
- Chemical test strips which test the minimum effective concentration (MEC) of the disinfectant.
- Biological indicator test strips which validates sterilization.
- Use of radio frequency identification (RFID) to track and manage scopes which eliminates manual input from a keypad or barcode.
Proper documentation of reprocessing is also paramount. Currently, several third party vendors provide software to automate reprocessing documentation but recently we have seen two manufacturers launch their own software for this in addition to real-time reprocessing and tracking information.
- Steris: In September 2013, Steris released the CS-iQ Sterile processing Workflow Management software which provides real-time information to hospitals and reduces paper by electronically capturing data including chemical and biological indicator test data. The software also provides reminders for preventative maintenance for the equipment and daily service tasks.
- Medivators: In October 2013, Medivators released Endora, an endoscope tracking system that tracks endoscopes through each step of the reprocessing cycle to ensure proper high-level disinfection occurs before use with another patient. Endora also comes with time stamping which promotes adherence to guidelines. It can even alert the operator and send an email if any step in the reprocessing process is omitted. Since it does inventory management, it can also keep track of scopes, track repair history and even ensure storage times are not exceeded.
Sterilizers and high-level disinfectors create a safer world through prevention of infection and are necessary systems in every hospital. Iâ€™m sure we will see more vendors developing their own products for electronic document management for reprocessing in the future to help combat HAIs and improve both patient safety and outcomes.