Greater Efficiency is Just a Click Away
By Bryant C. Broder, CSPDT, ACSP
I remember when in the late 1970s when the assistant director of our hospital announced our department was getting a computer. Fear was mirrored in the faces of many of the more senior staff members. As a "youngster" at the time, even I was a little apprehensive. I was responsible for programming automated guided vehicles to deliver exchange carts throughout the hospital, and the promise of a new system brought with it many doubts and a case of the "what ifs." "What if I can't understand the language?" "What if I can't learn its idiosyncrasies?" "What if I do something wrong and lose all the data?" The older folks just said, "It's time to retire!"
D-day arrived and the computer was delivered. What a huge unit it was, compared to the devices we have today. It had only 16MB of memory, two floppy disk drives, a monochrome monitor and a DOS operating environment. The staff thought we were going to have to go back to school to become computer programmers, but then we discovered software.
Software is what makes the world go around these days. There is software for almost anything you can imagine. Following is a general description of various types of software and some of its uses.
Operating system software
The operating system, or OS, could be referred to as the engine software of a computer. This type of software is what makes your system run. There is OS software for personal computers, variations for laptops, and still others for PDAs (palm-type devices). It can be loaded on a server so multiple users can access the software. (Please note: If there are several users for the same software, your organization must have the correct number of licenses, or you can face a major fine.)
Peripheral software is software that operates supplementary components such as printers, fax machines, copiers, monitors, PDAs and other equipment that is attached to or run by computers.
Included in this category are database management programs, spreadsheet programs, word processing programs, presentation software, and of course, email programs. Some examples or "brands" of this type of software include MS Access, Excel, Word, Lotus 123, PowerPoint, WordPerfect, Outlook and GroupWise.
There is an endless list of programs that can be purchased, downloaded, given away free (known as shareware), or custom developed -- given enough time, money and aptitude. I opt for the purchased or downloaded variety, but shareware is easily accessed, easy to use and best of all, free. Some words of caution, however; make sure to read the license agreement. Just because it is free does not mean it is not licensed. While it may not be widely publicized, there are penalties and fines that need to be paid if your organization is caught using software without a license.
There are software programs to keep your supply inventory in alignment. These programs allow users to order, purchase, receive, issue and charge out products used for patient consumption. Most of these programs interface with accounting programs for budgeting purposes.
In my opinion, the best software tool to be developed over the last decade has been the specialty software that provides instrument tracking. These software programs have become essential CS managers and staff. Most software programs available today allow instrumentation identification via specific numbers and manufacturer. The software can indicate how many instruments are needed in a set, display a picture of the instrument and set, print a picklist with the employee's name on it (for QA purposes) and identify the last location of the instrument set (a bonus for one-of-a-kind instruments).
Most systems available today will provide the aforementioned benefits. Some have additional benefits as well, like the SPM system from Materials Management Microsystems. This program not only manages instruments, it measures every facet of the CS continuum: decontamination, preparation, sterilization, storage, dispensing and equipment tracking and charging. The software provides modules to account for staff productivity, scheduling, staff meetings, personal employee records, and in the future will interface with washing and sterilization equipment to maintain watch over those parameters, too.
Many instrument companies provide software programs for instrument use. The caution here is to know your obligations because free is not always free. Be sure service is a part of the contract.
While I have listed numerous software programs here, I have merely scratched the surface of the plethora of possibilities. Do some exploring on your own to discover other programs that can make your CS/SP department run more efficiently.
Bryant C. Broder, ACSP, ACSP, is manager of surgery processing at Saint Mary's Mercy Medical Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. and serves as the president of ASHCSP/AHA.