Thinking About Automation for Your Ultrasound Probes?

Automated disinfection of your ultrasound probes improves workflow and standardizes the disinfection process. While automated reprocessing of endoscopes has been available for a while, automation in probe disinfection is relatively new technology.  Let’s review some key factors to help with your important decision.

Cycle Cost

The price of the reprocessor is important, but how much is the cycle cost which turns into your ongoing operating costs? Take a look at the 5-year operating cost.

  • Is the system compatible with a variety of disinfectants or will you be required to use only a proprietary disinfectant?
  • Can you reuse the disinfectant or is it a single use disinfectant? Reusing disinfectant dramatically reduces costs. New hydrogen peroxide chemistries are available for both automated and manual disinfection, such as Revital-Ox Resert which is reusable for 21 days.

Speed

It’s important to note that an automated reprocessor does not eliminate pre-cleaning! It’s imperative to first clean the ultrasound probe in advance of high-level disinfection. To learn more about the recommended cleaning steps, read our blog on How to Clean an Ultrasound Probe.

  • Faster turnaround time is essential to optimize your workflow. The time required for automated reprocessing varies depending on the system. Current options allow you to disinfect only one probe at a time.
  • A quick disinfection can prevent the capital purchase of an expensive transducer.
  • Check to see if the system requires warm-up time if left inactive. Inactivity often puts an electronic system to ‘sleep,’ just like a computer. How long will it take to boot up?

Automated Documentation

Logging requirements are time-consuming. Disinfection cycle data can be captured manually or through an automated process.

  • In addition to capturing the cycle pass or fail, you need to track probe ID, employee ID, temperature, date and time.
  • Printers are available that print a small record which may or may not require staff to add pertinent information, e.g. pass/fail or employee ID.
  • Advances in data technology make it possible to capture data through scanning and offer the ability to store large volumes of HLD cycle data in the reprocessor’s memory.

Compatibility

As mentioned above in Cycle Cost, most automated systems are typically only compatible with their own proprietary high-level disinfectant (this is how they make money!). Don’t forget to investigate your disinfectant options and see whether you have choices.  If you’re disinfectant is reusable, then you will save money. 

  • Make sure that the automated system can disinfect even your longest probe.
  • Determine whether the system can disinfect above the strain relief. Many new probes are water-resistant at the strain relief (check with your probe manufacturer). Several customers contacted us after surveyors requested a more thorough disinfection because the section of the cable closest to the probe is vulnerable to contamination.
In summary, here are the questions to ask when considering automation: 
  • What are all the costs? Equipment and cycle cost.
  • What is the five-year outlook for the operating costs?
  • Compatibility – does the system’s chamber accommodate your probe and let you disinfect above the strain relief?
  • What is the length of disinfection time?
  • Is the disinfectant reusable?
  • Is the disinfectant proprietary?
  • How do you log data? Is it a completely automated process or do staff have to partially fill out a form?
  • How long does it take for the system to warm up?