Jon Olabarrieta
Regional Director Latin America and Spain
Belimed
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View from the Top

Sterilization Requires Better Processes, Not Just Equipment

By Rodrigo Brugada | Tue, 08/24/2021 - 18:12

Q: What has been Metall Zug and Belimed’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: We are in a part of the healthcare chain that is more distant from medical care and patients. Although patient safety is essential to our processes, our interaction with them is indirect because our main customers are hospitals.

As the pandemic started, demand for protective materials such as face masks increased. Since we reprocess sterile materials, we developed processes to sterilize used masks and allow their repeated use. These processes were not adopted in Mexico due to distrust of the process but they were adopted in the US, for example.

In terms of both office and manufacturing activities, we quickly made the necessary changes to avoid compromising the supply chain.

Q: Intelligent design is at the core of some of your products. How can modular systems help optimize a hospital’s needs?

A: Intelligent design allows us to adapt our solutions to the needs and requirements of our customers. The processes vary according to the company, since different customers require different solutions in terms of technology, logistics and adaptation.

Our processes provide scalability and allow us to offer a wide range of solutions. In the Latin American region, demand is still not as high as in the EU, so we have introduced more economical equipment.

Belimed has been a pioneer in cleaning and sterilization processes. We have a deep-rooted desire to innovate and many of our innovations permeate the industry. One of our innovative lines addresses the efficient use of resources. For example, we incorporate dynamic systems that adapt to loads and adjust the amount of water, detergent and energy used. We also have equipment with specific programs that adapt to the type of load that needs to be sterilized. This is relevant when working with instruments because optimized cycles increase their average life span and reduce costs.

Although our equipment may have higher direct costs, they are much more cost-effective in the long term due to the efficient use of resources and the proper care of reusable materials. Our equipment also take up less space, providing many advantages due to the high cost per square meter in hospital settings.

Q: How is SmartHub helping clients move forward with their digitalization efforts? What role do you want to play in the adoption of Healthcare 4.0?

A: We have seen a huge technological leap in the last 20 years and we are seeing a transition from a very traditional industry to one that is interconnected and at the forefront of technology. This transition will allow us to move from reactive to proactive and preventive healthcare by gathering more information, performing increasingly detailed analysis and making decisions that make processes more efficient. With medical devices, we hope to be able to use these digital tools to anticipate technical failures.

Smarthub allows us to collect information from and monitor an entire CSSD. Eventually, our technical team will be able to access analyses and diagnostics that allow us to be proactive and anticipate technical failures. It also allows us to provide continuous training and educational opportunities through our clients’ platforms.

Q: How has Belimed’s cybersecurity focus helped it gain clients’ trust and what opportunities do you see in strengthening security in the healthcare sector?

A: The ultimate goal of both Belimed and healthcare providers is patient safety. In an ideal world, we would be able to monitor the chain of care and access the entire history and records whenever necessary, including tracking sterilized instruments. This chain is spread through many areas of the hospital and we can collect and provide more information through Smarthub.

Belimed has placed great emphasis on patient safety and protection from the beginning, following a whole series of guidelines and regulations that vary from region to region. We start the development of our equipment with guidelines developed by experts from different industries, and provide recommendations and support to the user to preserve safety.

Q: How do you approach clients regarding their planning and design needs and how do you ensure that your solutions are a best-fit for a given scenario?

A: Normally, the client has a preconceived idea about their needs and possible solutions. What we do is perform an analysis of their processes, needs and areas of opportunity and compare that with the requirements of different regulatory frameworks to offer better solutions.

There is no international harmonization of regulatory frameworks and the requirements in Mexico are extremely lax compared to those of the EU or the US. Because of this, one of our approaches in Mexico is to offer solutions based on these foreign regulations as a forecast for the future. At the end of the day, if the Mexican regulatory environment is behind other international standards, changes will eventually be made to raise the standards in Mexico. That is what we emphasize and we work with the client to not only change their equipment but to make adjustments early on so that they are ready when those standards are raised.

We focus not only on the equipment but on the design itself. An important aspect of sterilization plants is that, although they are inside a hospital, their processes follow an industrial design logic. The sterilization process follows a series of sequential processes that require a design suited to this logic. As consultants, we want to solve processes, not just sell equipment. Our approach contemplates that the process does not end with the purchase of the product but that once the purchase is made, our process of accompaniment and continuous improvement begins.

Q: What expansion plans do you have for Mexico and how will they strengthen the health system?

A: It is necessary for the country to stop thinking in terms of equipment and begin thinking in terms of processes. We want to offer more complete and integral solutions by getting involved from design and planning to monitoring and follow-up. We also focus on continuous training and in building closer relationships with our clients to ensure the best possible service.

We believe it is necessary to push for a regulatory update as current regulations are very lax. For example, other health industries, such as medical devices or the pharmaceutical industry, adapt to demanding international standards through national regulations. This is not the case for sterilization processes. This lack of regulation makes it difficult, for example, to know whether nosocomial infections related to surgeries are due to instrument-related processes.

 

Belimed Inc. is a leading supplier of medical and surgical instrument sterilization, disinfection and cleaning products and services. The company is a subsidiary of the Metall Zug group.

Rodrigo Brugada Rodrigo Brugada Journalist & Industry Analyst