Cooler Storage at Hospital Streamlines with Stainless Steel

A Virginia hospital looks for a better sterile cooler storage solution in the midst of a laboratory remodel.

Did You Know?

1.7 million is the number of people who have contracted a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) in a United States hospital. Better sterile storage can help hospitals control HAIs.

It may seem counterintuitive that an infection can be contracted in the healing environment of a hospital, but it happens more often than hospitals might like. In fact, according to the American Medical Association, 1 out of every 20 hospitalized patients contract a healthcare-associated infection (HAI), and an estimated 1.7 million people contracted an HAI in a U.S. hospital.

In addition to growing concerns hospitals have over HAIs from a patient care perspective, new healthcare reform laws have begun to penalize hospitals with the highest rates of HAIs. Beginning this year, hospitals with an excessive rate of healthcare-associated infections are being penalized one percent of their Medicare payments. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, this will result in an average penalty of over $208,000 per hospital. It may not stop at hospitals – chances are home health agencies, ambulatory surgical centers, and nursing facilities might be at risk for penalties as well.

“Healthcare professionals are used to stainless steel in laboratories. It doesn’t promote the spread of infection and is very easy to clean. It’s a huge advantage for any healthcare environment.”

– Art Bykonen, Account Manager at Spacesaver Storage Solutions

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Keeping Supplies Clean Only Part of the Puzzle

Keeping medical items sterile has long been a priority for hospitals, but with the new laws taking effect, hospitals are taking extra precautions to keep supplies clean. At an award-winning hospital in Virginia, a new sterile storage system was high on the to-do list, but sterility was only one piece of the puzzle. The hospital was remodeling to add more space for lab activities, but they didn’t want to sacrifice precious cooler storage for sterile supplies and samples.

Prior to the remodel, the hospital’s walk-in storage coolers were filled with static wire racking. During times when the hospital was near capacity, more items had to be stored on each shelf, making items near the back harder to access. The hospital considered putting more shelving into the coolers to accommodate more items, but there simply wouldn’t be enough walking space for nurses and lab staff to access the shelves. The humidity and temperature of the cooler also made the shelves prone to rust and corrosion – not an ideal situation when handling sterile supplies and lab samples.

1 in 20

The ratio of hospital patients who contract a healthcare-associated infection.

Walk-in storage coolers with stainless steel mobile storage shelving at Virgina Hospital

Wire shelving on stainless steel mobile storage system at Virginia Hospital

Stainless Steel Solution

With remodel plans in the works, lab staff contacted Spacesaver Storage Solutions, the nearby Spacesaver distributor. The hospital needed an innovative solution to handle their combination of space constriction, capacity, and sterility needs. Spacesaver representatives recommended adding an ActivRAC 7 system to the new walk-in cooler storage – but with stainless steel rather than standard.

By installing the stainless compact mobile shelving along with chrome racks, the cooler space was greatly increased without a costly expansion of the actual coolers. The high-density shelving also helps save on energy costs as the more tightly-packed cooler increases temperature stability. A dual-control system allows aisle access from both ends of the shelves so employees can quickly find what they need and work more efficiently.

The stainless system is rust and corrosion resistant to handle the cooler storage conditions, but more importantly, it has the added benefit of easy cleaning – an absolute must for healthcare environments. “Healthcare professionals are used to stainless steel in laboratories,” a Spacesaver representative working on the project said. “It doesn’t promote the spread of infection, and is very easy to clean. It’s a huge advantage for any healthcare environment.”

Front of walk-in cooler with wire racking on stainless steel mobile shelving at Virginia Hospital

“You don’t need to have a large installation to have a big impact on storage space.”

– Art Bykonen, Account Manager at Spacesaver Storage Solutions

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Virginia Hospital Chooses Stainless Steel Mobile System for Sterile Supply Storage

While it might seem odd to think that an infection can be contracted in the sterile environment of a hospital or clinic, it happens more often than you might think. In fact, according to the American Medical Association, 1 out of ever 20 hospitalized patients contracts a healthcare-associated infection (HAI), and an estimated 1.7 million people contracted an HAI in a United States hospital.

As a result, keeping hospitals and clinics as sterile as possible has become a top priority—and more healthcare facilities have turned to stainless steel for sterile supply storage for things like vaccines.

For one award-winning hospital, a sterile supply storage system was needed—but maximizing precious space was also an important priority. When the architecture firm redesigning the hospital’s laboratory placed a call to Art Bykonen, an Account Manager with Spacesaver Storage Solutions, an authorized Spacesaver distributor in Virginia.

“It doesn’t promote the spread of infection, and it’s a huge advantage for any healthcare environment.”

“The hospital reached out with a request for a mobile storage system that could be used within a walk-in cooler, which was being designed as part of a lab renovation,” Bykonen says. “After some discussion, Spacesaver’s ActivRAC 7M SS (stainless steel) system seemed like the best solution in order to prevent the rust and corrosion usually caused by humidity and temperature.”

In addition to the sterile supply storage, the stainless steel was also the logical choice for its easy-clean abilities. “Healthcare professionals are used to stainless steel in laboratories,” Bykonen explains. “It doesn’t promote the spread of infection, and it’s a huge advantage for any healthcare environment.”

Prior to the ActivRAC mobile system, the cooler was outfitted with wire shelving, which is still being used in conjunction with the new stainless steel storage solution. A dual control was installed in the system for access at both ends, and the result is a cooler space that no only ensures an uncontaminated environment, but also a sizeable increase in storage space.

“It’s a small solution—two carriages, about 18 feet in total,” Bykonen says. “But, you don’t have to have a large system to have a big impact on sterile supply storage.”