Central sterile modernization requires analysis for the best solution

By Josh Heacock 

At some point every healthcare facility will need to modernize its Central Sterilization Services (CSS), one of the least recognized yet highly critical departments. Options include renovating an existing facility or relocating to a new on- or off-site location. While there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach, all healthcare systems facing a CSS modernization should conduct a thorough analysis of facility needs and characteristics. 

An evaluation is typically a collaborative effort between owner, design team (engineer and architect), CSS consultant and, in some instances, a logistics consultant. An effective evaluation starts with a comprehensive assessment of the existing CSS and includes infrastructure analysis of existing architectural and MEPT systems, observation of existing workflow processes, tracking of tray volumes, reviewing annual procedure volumes, and identifying operational inefficiencies.  

If the evaluation determines that an existing CSS is not able to accommodate future growth through a renovation, then a new CSS facility should be considered. If a hospital can allocate space within its main facility or campus, keeping the CSS department on site is the recommended and most common option. (There are exceptions, of course. For example, an ambulatory facility with an onsite CSS would not necessarily make financial sense.) In addition to eliminating the need for transportation, an on-site solution typically realizes lower labor cost per tray, reduces reprocessing turn-time, and can utilize just-in-time case cart build strategies. 

When a healthcare facility doesn’t have available space to accommodate an expansion and/or modernization on site – or wants to consolidate multiple facilities’ CSS departments – it should evaluate off-site solutions. Moving a CSS department off campus does present challenges, but if done correctly can optimize efficiency and save resources for a healthcare system. (For an example, read the case study on the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics off-site CSS.) 

Healthcare facilities facing the need for modernization should begin an evaluation of their current CSS department by contacting a design team that can provide a comprehensive analysis specific to their needs to find the best solution for their facility. 

For a more in-depth review of on- and off-site solutions for CSS departments, read the IMEG whitepaper “Central Sterile Modernization: A Guide to On- vs. Off-Site Facilities.” 

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