In a meeting scheduled for October 23, 2014, AAMI will bring together a broad range of stakeholders to discuss how to better manager humidity levels in the operating room (OR). The event will bring together regulators, accreditation organizations, healthcare providers, representatives from the medical device industry, sterilization experts, and group purchasing organizations to find ways to follow new and broader facilities standards allowing lower humidity levels in the OR, while following device manufacturers’ instructions for use.

According to AAMI, the focus of concern is “that a humidity-level change for ORs that was approved by a federal agency and various groups can conflict with the manufacturer’s recommended humidity level for some medical equipment and supplies used in the OR.” In recent years, several organizations, including CMS, have recommended allowing OR humidity levels as low as 20%. The previous minimum was 35%. Lowering the minimum allowable humidity level can save operating costs. Device makers say, however, that the lower levels can lead to electrostatic damage and may compromise the sterility of supplies.

AAMI is seeking to take a systems approach to managing the problem. “Stakeholders have recognized that we have a big problem that has led to confusion in the field,” said AAMI President Mary Logan. “Facilities standards are more permissive, and device and supply instructions are stricter. Unfortunately, it’s easy to see how we have gotten here, as healthcare has yet to fully embrace a systems approach. Humidity is ‘managed’ by facilities staff, so they tend to think about it as a facilities issue. This meeting will aim to start broadening everyone’s thinking.”