Case study: Unitech & Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust

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Company introduction 
The sterilization and disinfection unit at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth is a busy operation, employing 120 staff working a 24/5 shift pattern with weekend cover. They process around 650 surgical instrument sets a day and up to 100 single instruments, which are delivered to 12 floors of wards and clinics, other hospitals in the area, and also GP's and private clients. Unitech's partner Fairfield specialises in auto ID solutions within supply chain applications & processes. Their customers have been enhancing their asset tracking, manufacturing, logistics or traceability operations with the help of Fairfield for over 28 years.
Customer specific need 
In order to ensure patient care of the highest standard, and also comply with NICE guidelines, Derriford made the decision to embrace technology for the tracking of surgical instruments. They invited Fairfield Group to the hospital to discuss the project and the various options available to them. Derriford Hospital Production Manger Glyn Fradley explains: "We wanted to find out how to approach the marking and tracking of our instruments, as the first step in our traceability project. We had around 10.500 instruments that we indentified for initial marking both single/supplementary items and also standard sets. We were looking for the best possible way to read and mark the instruments with as little disruption as possible."  Different options were brought to the table by Fairfield Group, including some very clever hardware, such as Unitech's PA600 MCA. Lee Wragg, Fairfield Business Development Director said: "We worked closely with Derriford to ensure that we develop a mutually accurate project plan that delivered the best value possible for them, from hardware integration through to the actual collating and marking of their instrument inventory. Infection control and patient care are at the forefront and there are many processes that are tracked and traced all the way from wash to patient, and in reverse, back to instrument reprocessing. "

The solution by Unitech 
The journey a surgical instrument makes through its lifecycle is a complex one and in the case of Derriford Hospital, the instrument begins at the wash reception. Instruments need to be checked and scanned to verify that decontamination has taken place. An extra layer of traceability is in place in the form of a cycle number on a machine, which is recorded using a Unitech configured PA600 MCA. Once released from washer and clean session, a supervisor has to pass the load via IMS (independent monitoring system) before instruments or sets can be progressed any further. Again the PDA is used to release the instruments. Regarding single/supplementary items, the process is similar, except the system then produces a production label to adhere to the instrument at the packing stage. By using the Unitech PA600 MCA, instruments and sets are scanned into each autoclave steriliser, and the cycle number is again logged for traceability. Finally, the PDA is used to despatch the items via a trolley to the different sections of the hospital. The team also uses PDA's for inventory control such as goods in and instrument issuing, and also to distribute and trace wound packs and other sterile items such as scissors going to each ward.
Benefits of the solution

Because of the complex journey, a solid marking & scanning solution was the only way to ensure accuracy and longevity. Glyn explained: "This is where the total solution differed. It's leading edge and the way of marking is unique. It is optimised to ensure that the 2D barcodes can be read quickly, easily and accurately, both now and also in the future. The Unitech PA600 MCA showed superior 2D barcode reading capabilities compared to other PDA's that were tested. For critical hospital environments such as wash reception of surgical instruments this is one of the top priorities. The higher accuracy in distribution and smoother cleaning process improves the quality of the hospital. Also, the PA600 MCA is constructed out of an infection controlled housing (anti-microbial material) in hospital white colours. This makes that bacteria's cannot attach easily to the device and that the PDA is easy to clean. Infection control is improved greatly taking the hospital to a next healthcare level.

Customer testimonial:  "We choose Unitech because we could have the Tohken 2D Image reader in their unit. It was the best 2D reader on the sample codes over the Moto MC70 PDA."

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