Traceability in ultrasound infection prevention: standardisation through digitisation

Nanosonics Limited
Wednesday, 23 March, 2022


Ultrasound probes are used throughout many hospital departments. During use ultrasound probes can contact a range of patient tissues, including sterile tissue, the bloodstream, mucous membranes, non-intact and intact skin. Proper probe reprocessing according to the intended use of the device is essential to help protect the next patient from infection risk. The Spaulding classification is adopted in Australian and New Zealand national standards to determine these minimum disinfection requirements, based on how the device will be used.1-3

Tracking or traceability refers to the collection of medical device identifiers, reprocessing information and then linking this to the patient record.1,2 Traceability in ultrasound infection prevention forms part of the record that a facility has met its standard of quality and safe care for patients undergoing sonographic procedures. The Australian National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards, AS/NZS 4187 and the ACIPC-ASUM guidelines require full traceability to the patient for sterilisation and high level disinfection of semi-critical and critical medical devices, including ultrasound probes.1-3

Why is traceability compliance required?

Traceability is essential in an outbreak investigation to determine the extent of patient notifications and device recalls.1-3 In a non-outbreak setting, it allows a facility to demonstrate they meet their duty of care to patients and for healthcare accreditation purposes. Action 3.17 of the NSQHS Standards requires health service organisations have compliant traceability processes for critical and semi-critical devices.1 The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) expects hospitals to be compliant with Action 3.17 by December 2022.4

It is important facility policies specify the information that must be collected to enable traceability of ultrasound probes and their reprocessing information to patients. Read our Clinical Bulletin on the information that needs to be captured and linked for every semi-critical or critical ultrasound probe use, according to national standards.1-3 Once policies are in place, education and training for end users is essential so the required information is consistently documented for every use of the probe on a patient.

Digitisation supports standardised ultrasound infection prevention

AS/NZS 4187 recognises that “HSOs should be working towards an electronic tracking/process record system.”2

Documentation of the required traceability information can be completed manually using logbooks and other paper based systems, however introducing digitisation into the workflow can have several benefits. Digitisation ensures information capture and labelling is standardised across the entire ultrasound probe reprocessing workflow for all ultrasound users across healthcare departments (e.g. using RFID technology and printers). This can help reduce the risk of manual administrative error and incomplete record keeping. Digital records permit paperless linkage to the patient record which can be backed up securely. Digital solutions can also streamline compliance practices to ensure that sensitive patient data is protected from unauthorised use.

Peace of mind with digitised traceability

In healthcare, a robust traceability system can be used as a tool for investigating and identifying the affected patients in the event of an outbreak or infection prevention breach. Implementing digitisation into traceability workflows can ensure record security, accuracy and efficient capture across the ultrasound infection prevention workflow.

References

1. Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC). National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards. Action 3.17. Second Edition. 2021.
2. Standards Australia (AS) and Standards New Zealand (NZS). AS NZS 4187 2014: Reprocessing of reusable medical devices in health service organisations. 2014.
3. Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control (ACIPC), Australasian Society for Ultrasound in Medicine (ASUM). Guidelines for Reprocessing Ultrasound Transducers. Australasian Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine. 2017;20(1):30-40.
4. Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) AS18/07 July 2021. https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/publications-and-resources/resource-library/as1807-reprocessing-reusable-medical-devices-health-service-organisations

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