Hospital Hygiene: "The cleanliness of medical devices remains a challenging subject"

Interview with Julia Steckeler, Project Manager: "CleanMed- Competence Network for Technical Cleanliness, Cleanability, and Sterilizability in Medical Technology"

Hygiene is crucial in medical technology. Unclean implants or surgical instruments that are difficult to clean are not just a problem for users and patients – in the long run, manufacturers lose their good reputation and new orders.


Photo: Julia Steckeler

Julia Steckeler of the MedicalMountains AG. The cluster organization from Tuttlingen manages the new project; © Julia Steckeler

The “CleanMed –Kompetenznetzwerk für technische Sauberkeit, Reinigbarkeit und Sterilisierbarkeit in der Medizintechnik“(English: CleanMed- Competence Network for Technical Cleanliness, Cleanability, and Sterilizability in Medical Technology) network wants to tackle these issues. spoke with Julia Steckeler from MedicalMountains on this subject.

Ms. Steckeler, why was CleanMed founded?

Julia Steckeler: The goal of the CleanMed Competence Network is to develop new processes and services for the production of medical devices that are nearly free of production residues. The plan is to develop new products that have improved cleaning properties both in production and with the user. The vision is to raise the technical cleanliness, cleanability, sterilizability, and clean handling of medical devices to an absolutely essential level. A normative standard for cleanliness in medical technology is meant to be jointly defined, established and continuously updated.

Why is an improvement in production and cleaning conditions for medical devices necessary?

Steckeler: The design of medical devices and their manufacturing processes needs to preclude or reduce the risk of infection in patients, operators, and third parties as much as possible. Despite all efforts and advancement, the cleanliness of medical devices remains an issue since problems continue to surface.

What aspects are particularly important to you?

Steckeler: The CleanMed approach starts with development and material selection and prior to the actual production process to subsequently optimize the entire product life cycle from start through disposal process. This task is so extensive that you cannot discuss individual aspects that are of particular importance. In a way, each subproject also determines the quality of subsequent subprojects. 

Photo: A man and a woman in the OR

In the past, there have always been contaminated surgical instruments. This is why both the manufacturers of these instruments and sterilization equipment manufacturers try to find ways to avoid contamination. Now we should all benefit from the collaboration; © Gabrielczyk

What companies are participating?

Steckeler: Currently, 24 network partners contribute their diversified skills. The network offers a wide variety and includes traditional manufacturers of medical devices and implants, development providers and manufacturers of cleaning equipment and cleaning agents. The Plastics Institute South-West (German: Kunststoff-Institut Südwest, KISW) brings its expertise in the plastics field to the table. The Natural and Medical Sciences Institute (NMI) at the University of Tübingen and the Fraunhofer IPA also represent renowned names in technical cleanliness research.

What requirements do companies need to fulfill to join the network?

Steckeler: Following the spirit of networking among all of the current CleanMed partners, the project is open at any time to new partners with technical expertise in this area. Generally, we are excited about partners that want to share their skills with the network to jointly implement developments faster and anticipate high-quality results. Based on the complexity of the task, all network partners know they are only able to achieve their objective together.

What steps are planned for the next few months?

Steckeler: The CleanMed competence network is among the chosen network projects by the nationwide program titled “Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand“(English: Central Innovation Program for SMEs) and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. We are currently in phase 1 of the project. Based on the approach of realizing development and optimization potentials relating to cleanliness across the entire process cycle, the first eight subprojects were defined in five main categories, which have either already started or are about to start during the next few months. Other topics are conceivable at any time and are also likely to follow based on the comprehensive complexity of the task. In the spring of 2016, we would like to begin phase 2 of the funding by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. However, the declared objective and joint claim by CleanMed is the setup of a leading competence center for cleanliness in medical technology beyond the funding stage.

Photo: Simone Ernst; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann

The interview was conducted by Simone Ernst and translated by Elena O'Meara.