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Joint Commission publishes advisory on reprocessing reusable medical equipment

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | March 02, 2022
Endoscopy Risk Management
The Joint Commission has published an advisory on reprocessing reusable medical equipment
The Joint Commission has issued new recommendations for reprocessing critical medical instruments and devices correctly.

Titled “Ensuring critical instruments and devices are appropriate for reuse,” the new Quick Safety advisory suggests a number of actions to ensure reusable instruments and devices are reprocessed correctly.

They include:

  • Standardized instrument and device visualization during each step of the decontamination, cleaning and sterilization processes with a final inspection done prior to using and removing any instrument that can not be appropriately and safely used.

  • Integrating infection preventionist reviews of critical instruments and devices during the purchasing process.

  • Having access to the manufacturer’s instructions for using and intermittently reviewing instructions for all critical instruments and devices.

  • A plan for evaluating the education, training and competency of staff responsible for reprocessing, overseeing and supervising the reprocessing of sterile products to ensure they can appropriately reprocess reusable instruments.

  • Effectively maintain and refurbish processes to keep instruments in optimal condition and determine when each instrument can no longer be reprocessed.

"The Joint Commission has noticed a recent increase in findings related to the items discussed in the Quick Safety advisory. Reprocessing includes inspection to ensure that items are intact (e.g., free of cracks that could lead to instrument failure during a case); functional; free of debris that could lead to a foreign body reaction; and clean (microorganisms could be protected from sterilization process)," Sylvia Garcia-Houchins, director of infection prevention and control at The Joint Commission, told HCB News.

The commission also discusses in the advisory reprocessing guidance issued by the FDA and special circumstances for when to reuse single-use devices. While an SUD is meant for use only once on one individual patient, there are special circumstances in which third parties only may reprocess them.

It additionally elaborates on how most SUDs are not designed to be reprocessed and how they do not allow for thorough decontamination after use. This includes some tools made of lower quality metals or components that cannot go through the cleaning and sterilization processes without potentially being deformed, rusted, pitted, chipped or cracked.

Improperly sterilized and reprocessed equipment poses several risks to patients. Earlier this month, the Carl Vinson Medical Center in Dublin, Georgia issued a warning that more than 4,000 vets may have been exposed to unclean medical equipment after a staff member pointed out that equipment was not being sterilized correctly.

As a result, the healthcare provider shut down temporarily in January and is now encouraging veterans who had dentistry, endoscopy, urology, podiatry, optometry or surgical procedures in the last year to get blood tests for hepatitis B and C and HIV.

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