Data analysis of vascular surgery instrument trays yielded large cost and efficiency savings

Published:December 24, 2020DOI:



      Surgical procedures account for 50% of hospital revenue and ∼60% of operating costs. On average, <20% of surgical instruments will be used during a case, and the expense for resterilization and assembly of instrument trays ranges from $0.51 to $3.01 per instrument. Given the complexity of the surgical service supply chain, physician preferences, and variation of procedures, a reduction of surgical cost has been extremely difficult and often ill-defined. A data-driven approach to instrument tray optimization has implications for efficiency and cost savings in sterile processing, including reductions in tray assembly time and instrument repurchase, repair, and avoidable depreciation.


      During a 3-month period, vascular surgery cases were monitored using a cloud-based technology product (OpFlow, Operative Flow Technologies, Raleigh, NC) as a part of a hospital-wide project. Given the diversity of the cases evaluated, we focused on two main vascular surgery trays: vascular and aortic. An assessment was performed to evaluate the exact instruments used by the operating surgeons across a variety of cases. The vascular tray contained 131 instruments and was used for the vast majority of vascular cases, and the aortic tray contained 152 instruments. Actual instrument usage data were collected, a review and analysis performed, and the trays optimized.


      During the 3-month period, 168 vascular surgery cases were evaluated across six surgeons. On average, the instrument usage per tray was 30 of 131 instruments (22.9%) for the vascular tray and 19 of 152 (12.5%) for the aortic tray. After review, 45.8% of the instruments were removed from the vascular tray and 62.5% from the aortic tray, for 1255 instruments removed from the versions of both trays. An audit was performed after the removal of instruments, which showed that none of the removed instruments had required reinstatement. The instrument reduction from these two trays alone yielded an estimated costs savings of $97,781 for repurchase and $97,444 in annual resterilization savings. Annually, the removal of the instruments is projected to save 316.2 hours of personnel time. The time required for operating room table setup decreased from a mean of 7:44 to 5:02 minutes for the vascular tray (P < .0001) and from 8:53 to 4:56 minutes for the aortic tray (P < .0001).


      Given increasing cost constraints in healthcare, sterile processing remains an untapped resource for surgical expense reduction. A comprehensive data analytics solution provided the ability to make informed decisions in tray management that otherwise could not be reliably performed.


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