Penn Medicine Opens Sterilization Facility

April 27, 2021
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Penn Medicine recently opened its new Interventional Support Center (ISC), the largest instrument processing and surgical supply preparation facility in the country. Located in Southwest Philadelphia, the ISC is the first facility of its kind in Pennsylvania. In this space, staff will sterilize and package thousands of instruments — from basic scissors and clamps to advanced robotic instruments — each day in preparation for surgeries and procedures.

At nearly 110,000 square feet, the ISC is designed to process instruments from up to 200 surgical cases each day. Penn purchased the entire building in 2018 and built a physical plant to support the ISC’s operations. The ISC will combine instrument processing services from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and Pennsylvania Hospital (PAH), as well as three outpatient facilities: the Perelman Center; Penn Medicine Radnor; and the Tuttleman Center. The Pavilion — also known as HUP East — will also be supported by the ISC when it opens this fall.

“The opening of the ISC sets a new standard for sterile instrument processing,” said Chris Pastore, ISC managing director. “It also marks a new approach from Penn Medicine. By moving our processing operations from the traditional hospital setting to an offsite, dedicated facility, we’re able to increase efficiency in a high-quality, cost-effective way — all while keeping up with increasing demand. Plus, the ISC alleviates space at our clinical locations, providing the breathing room hospital departments need to expand services. For example, thanks to the ISC’s capacity, Penn Medicine has been able to dedicate more space to patients at the new HUP East hospital opening later this year.”

In addition to providing hospital locations with much-needed real estate for patient care, consolidating these services off-site helps to minimize any redundant equipment across the health system. The ISC itself was designed with efficiency in mind – built with Six Sigma expertise, it is designed with a one-way forward flow approach that enables efficient instrument processing. The facility includes features that enhance sterilization efficiency, such as the use of clean steam using reverse osmosis water. The ISC will be a nearly dust-free facility thanks to increased air changes and filtration. Airlocks throughout the building also prevent cross-contamination of air between areas where dirty instruments are processed and clean ones are repackaged.

The ISC team consists of 140 employees from on-site instrument processing facilities at HUP and PAH. In addition, 25 new employees were hired to staff the new building. The facility was created with ergonomic principles and employee well-being in mind, enabling a comfortable workspace for the ISC team members. All major equipment allows for personalized adjustments for staff, such as height adjustable sinks and assembly tables.

“Clean instruments are a crucial component of patient safety,” said Phil Okala, chief operating officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “Through centralized processing with state-of-the-art equipment, the ISC is an important element behind Penn Medicine’s efforts to continue delivering high-quality, advanced patient care and safety. The ISC also stands as a unique, leading example for multi-hospital health systems looking to create improved processing systems and thoughtfully plan the best ways to maximize capacity for patient care.”

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