It was on a Friday a few weeks before the MD&M Tradeshow in Anaheim California when I received an email asking if I would be interested in telling the SterileAware™ story on the Pack Place stage on the opening day of the event. My first thought was what an incredible honor and opportunity to introduce SterileAware™ to colleagues and industry leaders in healthcare and medical packaging. My excitement waned quickly however when I realize that I was anything but prepared to present an engaging talk on such short notice. After some reflection however, I began to realize that although I did not have a presentation deck prepared, I was confident that I could build a worthy story having so much skin in the game, as the SterileAware™ story is a personal story.

As I begin to frame, and bullet point all the connecting bits and pieces of SterileAware™ my biggest challenge became synthesizing the salient points to give attendees a clear picture of this mission. The SterileAware™ initiative was built upon the base plate of healthcare-associated infections awareness, however, the story reaches far beyond awareness. The MD&M (medical device and manufacturing) tradeshow is not perhaps the most ideal venue to speak to the hospital side of our mission. I chose to speak mostly to the OEM side of medical device packaging systems and I what I feel to be a sluggish innovation path that could risk patients’ safety from contact with a non-sterile medical device. Before I would cover the packaging systems’ connection to patient safety, I wanted to first frame the genesis of SterileAware.

I opened my talk with a three-minute video that was developed to give a high-level understanding of the SterileAware mission, I felt this would help fill the gaps on what I may miss at the podium. After the video faded to black, I brought up an image on the dual monitors that showed me laying in a hospital bed close to death from a HAI (hospital acquired infection). I felt this was a powerful way for attendees to understand the drive and the catalyst behind the growing SterileAware initiative.

In my talk, I contrasted consumer product innovation versus medical packaging machine system development. My first case study highlighted the 3M’s Filtrate system which incorporates a Bluetooth system and sensor that connects users with their heating and air conditioning filters to improve air quality, by managing exchange cycles. As industrial innovators, we can learn a lot from a system that sells for under $20 and yet could provide at least a partial solution for managing ambient and household air pollution that is responsible for 6.7 million premature deaths annually.

Also, during my brief talk, I called out hospitals and clinics that continue to use non-conforming pouch/bag sealing systems that could put the sterile barrier system at risk and showcased emerging technology that would better assure the safe delivery of a medical device to the patient’s bedside and surgical theater. I also called out the wage gap between sterile processing department workers that share the same responsibility as nurses and physicians on the surgical team for positive patient outcomes. My case study told the tale of SPD workers walking off their jobs to join the new hires at the newly opened Chick-fil-A, causing surgical procedures to be canceled.

Again, my biggest frustration was working with a time limit triage, this only allowed parts of the SterileAware™ story to be told. As I work in the coming months to refine my presentation, I plan to fold in more of our aggregate story into these very limited time restraints. As a seasoned podcast host, I have learned that it is so important to balance the volume of data you wish to convey so as not to overwhelm your listeners. When you are excited about the topic of your talk, it’s always a challenge to reduce the subject to smaller more digestible bits as opposed to delivering a river of datum.

It was an amazing opportunity to speak at this prestigious event after 30 years as an attendee and 27 years as an exhibitor. I felt that given the time that I had to prepare I did a decent job at presenting the SterileAware story. I queried my friends and colleagues that were in the audience after my talk and the consensus was two thumbs up.

I cannot wait for the next opportunity to speak on this important initiative with the goal of making individuals and companies aware of their connection to the safe and sterile delivery of medical devices and all the contamination failure points we must firewall. From the birth of this initiative from my hospital bed the hope has always been to make more of us SterileAware…