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Where Will Tomorrows Traceability Take You

It is pretty fair to say the development of electronic traceability systems for the reprocessing of medical devices has been pretty uninteresting for several years.

This despite the need for better systems to support the highly pressurised engine room environment of a reprocessing department, supporting the demands placed upon them by their clinical colleagues.

Healthcare in the public sector in particular is known to have wonderful systems & the most advanced machinery technology has to offer, but that’s where it ends!

This is because most systems & machinery are unable to communicate and currently operate in a siloed environment.

The duplication recording of processes, double scanning is still evident, continuing to increase the carbon footprint whilst increasing technician’s workload too.

Integration of systems & machinery is vitally important if the challenges and demands placed upon them is going to be achieved.

Machine Integration:  Machinery is extremely important within a decontamination reprocessing department. Washers, Endo washer disinfectors, low /high sterilisation & storage machinery is the heartbeat of the department, without these the department would not function. Despite the importance of these machines the data recorded, is within a siloed environment and in most cases not integrated into an electronic traceability system. This means the data captured from the machine is manually entered into the electronic traceability system, using a combination of scanning & keyboard data entry. This results in the duplication of the recording of data, being less productive, inefficient, increasing the technician workload and increasing the carbon footprint whilst producing inaccurate data reporting. The key to a resolution is integration where upon data, people and processes are captured and recorded in a single solution. Implementing integration provides process data integrity, increases productivity, improves efficiency, patient safety, and sustainability, by addressing carbon net zero emissions.

Asset Management Integration: In most cases once the medical devices leaves the reprocessing department it potentially falls into a blackhole on route and only drops out of the blackhole when luck would have it, finally arrives in the clinical procedure room.  A few healthcare providers implement a process where upon medical devices are manually recorded in and out of a theatre store/storage cabinet. In a pressurised environment this process is at great risk of human error, and can be timely & costly. As an attempt to overcome this issue some have even extended their existing traceability system with a stores module, all this despite an asset management system being deployed and used throughout the hospital, tracking other assets such as beds, machinery and in some instances patients! So just like machine integration the duplication recording of these processes and double scanning is still evident.  

To avoid this is quite simple, implementing integration between your traceability and asset management applications. Integration enables the sharing of data, displaying exactly in Realtime the status and the where abouts of your medical device[s] whilst avoiding being misplaced and, in some instances, lost.

This eliminates some medical devices being sourced at a cost from a loan set provider or in the worst-case, surgical procedures being cancelled. Cancelled procedures come at a very high cost to the healthcare provider, whilst some cannot be avoided there are many that simply can be avoided.


Clinical Management Integration: At the very heart of surgical procedures is patient safety, ensuring the medical devices used are successfully recorded against each patient and is safe to use. In the event of a clinical episode a full audit report is a legal requirement, this report details what instruments was used on which patient[s] and the decontamination reprocessing history for that specific reprocessing event. Currently this is achieved through a manual process where upon a sticker is taken from a production label applied to the instrument tray and placed within the patient notes. In the event of a clinical episode the sticker, containing a unique number for the specific reprocessing event is then used for the decontamination reprocessing department to trace back the audit production history within their traceability system. This can be a laborious exercise and is prone to human error. Alternatively, the traceability system can be extended into the procedure rooms so that the patient ID can be associated with the medical device.

However this is an area of Bonafede contention as clinical personnel already use a clinical management system which amongst other information records the medical device used on the patient for that specific procedure. One would also question why the duplication of recording this information into two systems which many oppose to doing. The time & availability of carrying out the duplication of these task whilst patient welfare & patient safety is very much paramount. Whilst on this subject of patient safety most clinical personnel read the expiry date on the production label applied to the wrapped medical device to identify if the medical device is safe to use and within the expiry date. This can again be prone to human error  & mistakes can be made, which can prove costly in a clinical incident where evidence is required as a legal requirement.

Again this can be simply resolved with integration into a clinical management system for which data can be shared between both applications including addressing patient to medical device association including patient safety, ensuring the medical devices are safe to use prior to the surgical procedure.

This applies to all areas within healthcare including the decontamination reprocessing environment where at present integration is partial or in most cases non-existent.

A fully integrated decontamination reprocessing environment is very much achievable where upon machinery, traceability, asset & clinical management systems are working in perfect harmony, bringing people, processes, and data together.

Full integration achieves so much, ticking all the boxes for efficiency, productivity, consistency, speed, sustainability, and simplicity, enabling powerful meaningful “Realtime” business intelligence reporting in one place, eliminating laborious merging of spreadsheets.

Another area of contention is how traceability applications are currently used. This is because most track & trace applications are still being used on fixed static workstations connected to a cabled network infrastructure.

Technology has advanced considerably for which many decontamination reprocessing departments would thrive on using today’s most up to date advanced technology.

Technology to support applications to become more mobile & agile, utilising traceability applications not only on desktop but android & IOS platforms too, whilst using handheld mobile devices, scanning barcodes and RFID tags using the very latest Bluetooth, Wi-Fi & cellular connectivity.  No more bringing the surgical trays & endoscopes to the fixed workstation or waiting to hear the beep of the reader for the scan as you are not insight of the fixed static Pc monitor. Embracing this technology also addresses the issues relating to space within a decontamination reprocessing department, especially on new build departments or the refurbishment of an old one where the use of an electronic traceability system and where to use it is not top of the list as an agenda item.

Networking infrastructure technology has changed too, using cloud technology as a means of storing and accessing applications and data through the internet, rather than using their own hard drives. Cloud technology is internet based and does not require a physical device to host the application. Cloud technology offers benefits such as flexibility, scalability, security, cost efficiency and collaboration.


Data Integrity/Reporting: It is acknowledged data produced from an electronic track & trace system does not meet today’s requirements of a decontamination reprocessing department.

Since the pandemic the focus on reducing waiting list within public healthcare requires harnessing on the use of better technology to provide comprehensive data. Data that can be used to record and analyse all departments, this includes productivity, efficiency, compliance, rationalization, governance & finance.  

Despite this being the mandate, most decontamination reprocessing traceability systems are very much behind the times.                                                                                                                                                

This is because most providers of traceability systems are very protective on the data, especially with what they should provide, this despite the data belonging to the reprocessing decontamination department! Another reason is the provider is unable to accommodate and support today’s demands and technology, as this functionality is not available within their application. This means either lack of data or unqualified data resulting in laborious exercises of extracting data from different systems to combine into singular reporting whilst under no illusions that the data is clean and correct.                               


All of these issues & requirements can easily be resolved, with enhanced functionality, integration into reprocessing machinery, clinical & asset management systems.

An integrated solution from Medical Intelligence Systems including using the very latest artificial intelligence technology [AI] allowing you to connect all your data, people and processes seamlessness in a single solution using the very latest cloud technology. This approach has now become accepted best practise among many leading healthcare decontamination and clinical management teams.

The reason for this is quite simple, this brings huge benefits in reporting, efficiency, productivity, consistency, speed, sustainability, and simplicity.

For more information please email Medical Intelligence Systems at:                          

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