Reprocessing of endoscopes is essential to patient safety

By Suraj Soudagar 

Most gastrointestinal (GI) facilities are designed to move patients through procedure rooms as quickly as possible. But designers must pay special attention to the reprocessing of endoscopes, because speed should never trump safe patient care.  

Endoscopes are difficult to properly disinfect and preventing infections during endoscopies and colonoscopies is paramount, so the design of the reprocessing department might be the most important place to start when planning a new GI space. Much like you wouldn’t want to eat at restaurant whose kitchen has been given “D” grade by the local food safety inspector, you wouldn’t want to undergo a procedure in a facility that doesn’t adhere to the highest level of cleanliness where scopes are cleaned and reprocessed. 

Consider these factors at the beginning of your project: 

Room layout. The best practice is to frame out three different rooms: one for decontamination, one for scope washing, and one for drying (required by some health departments). At minimum, there should be two rooms with a pass-through automated endoscope reprocessor (AER) between them, which would eliminate the need for a third room. You’ll also need to consider where doors, waste management, and equipment (such as a ceiling-mounted boom) are located to help physicians and staff work efficiently. 

Reprocessing equipment. Consider purchasing an AER with barcode-scanning technology that can trace the entire life cycle of a scope. It logs when the scope was used on a patient, when the decontamination process began, and when it went into storage before being used on the next patient. In addition to the AER, you will need endoscope storage cabinets. Choosing advanced drying cabinets would provide faster scope turnover and dry time. Investing in high-end reprocessing technology can reduce cross contamination risks for patients and reduce risk to your facility. 

Buying the right scopes. You’ll likely need four or five scopes for each of your procedure rooms, but the size of the facility, the types of procedures performed, and the turnaround times of your reprocessing area are all factors in exactly how many scopes you’ll need. 4K imaging chain is ideal if you have the budget for it. 

These practices will help you design a procedure room with the latest endoscope technology and reprocessing areas outfitted with patient safety in mind. For more information, read Gearing Up for GI, an article I recently wrote for Outpatient Surgery Magazine. 

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