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Getting Your CFO to Say “Yes” to Your Sterile Processing Requests

How can you get through to decision-makers that your capital requests are pivotal needs, not just a wish list?

In healthcare you have real and legitimate needs for patient safety that really aren’t optional, but necessary tools. As a sterile processing supervisor, you’ve been trained on multiple facets of your department. Do any of those include proposals and selling? Likely, it isn’t second nature to you. In this article we will discuss how to build your case, who to get involved, and how to think like a CFO.

Get their attention with the big picture
Building a case for your needs will require more than an email and a request filtered through multiple chains of command. The C-suite is all about a business outcome and how your proposal can benefit the organization as a whole. How will approving your capital request help them with their problems? Find an angle that they can connect with. This has three parts.

  • First, define the patient safety risk you want to address. For example, your department needs a borescope, a small video scope used to examine lumened devices. Without it you cannot ensure that devices are safe for patient use. The liability of bioburden left inside could exceed the investment of the device itself, and specific IFUs call for it to be used in order to assure sterility.
  • Second, define the potential benefits of adding this asset to inventory. In this case, it verifies that the device used on patients meets all sterility parameters, and it reduces the likelihood of a citation from regulatory agencies.
  • Finally, describe how this capital acquisition fits into your organization’s mission. For example, take the mission statement of Cedars-Sinai: “Quality patient care is our priority. Providing excellent clinical and service quality, offering compassionate care, and supporting research and medical education are essential to our mission.”1

This mission statement directly states that quality patient care, excellent clinical quality, and medical education are top priorities. Using our example, by having a borescope we can help ensure that clinical quality is delivered, and the nurses can continue to deliver compassionate care without being slowed down by unexpected debris, case delays, and liabilities. When writing your proposal, speak directly to how your department needs align with the mission.

Involve the right players
Getting the right people involved often involves navigating outside your department and recruiting the help of additional people. Some great places to start are infection control and involvement from your vendors.

Infection control
A picture is worth a thousand words, and speaks loudly. If bioburden has been identified on a device or in a lumen, document it. In this happenstance, an event has to be recorded (if it made it into a case) and usually infection control is notified. Sit down with them and walk them through how and why it happened, as well as the ways it could have been avoided with the correct devices available to your staff. If we are using the case of a borescope, with visual clarity your team would have had the ability to identify the bioburden and reprocess accordingly. Involving an additional clinical staff member that can validate your concern will help build your case.

Remember, you don’t have to be the technical expert; they are the expert. It’s no big surprise they would love nothing more than to close a sale. Let them do the leg work and help build your financial case. 

Questions to ask your vendors:

  1. How does your product lend to patient safety needs?
  2. What differentiates your device from others that are similar?
  3. Can you help me build a financial case for my decision-maker to seem more interested? Remember, sales representatives are trained to help build your case, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
  4. Do you have photos, IFUs, or case studies that support my case?

If you ask these questions and partner with your vendor to build your case, it can never hurt. They can also usually help you get creative on purchases, whether that is buyback, repair exchange, or strategic line-item pricing.

Think like a CFO
The roles of CFOs are transitioning as more hospitals today are managed by a system versus at the facility level. Understanding the role your CFO plays, and your organization’s structure, will help you understand who to speak with when submitting for approval. As stated in a guest post on FierceHealthcare by Tom Quinn, “As systems absorb more healthcare providers and grow in size and scope…traditional CFO functions such as accounting, managed care contracting, revenue cycle, and cash and treasury management are transitioning to the system level and are no longer in the purview of the individual hospital CFO. Each of these functions typically has a vice president who leads these areas for the health system and reports directly to the corporate controller or system CFO.”2

Maybe it’s complex to understand how the corporate ladder works, but if you do, you can climb the rungs appropriately. Everyone can be reached if the right channels are followed, and a business case is built for your sterile processing needs. We cannot always predict everything the department may need in the window of time available to submit capital equipment requests. Why? New technology advancements, increased staff, case volumes, and evolving IFUs. 

Lastly, tell the story of liability cost and cost avoidance. Without the tools necessary to lend in the favor of patient safety, prevent liabilities, and minimize time-wasting activities, you are fighting an uphill battle

 Think like a CFO when you submit requests by building a solid business case, involving the correct key players, and taking into consideration your organization’s unique mission and structure. The likelihood of a “yes” will dramatically increase if you do.


  1. “Our Mission, Vision and Values,” Cedars-Sinai, accessed February 17, 2021, https://www.cedars-sinai.org/about/mission.html.
  2. “The shifting role of the healthcare CFO: From sites to systems,” FierceHealthcare, accessed February 17, 2021, https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/finance/shifting-role-healthcare-cfo-from-sites-to-systems#:~:text=The%20traditional%20CFO%20role%20was%20and%20still%20is,must%20develop%20more%20sophisticated%20and%20centralized%20finance%20departments.

Rebecca Kinney has been working to improve patient safety in the medical arena for more than 13 years. She provides educational content on LinkedIn to help sterile processing and medical professionals gain knowledge as it relates to surgical devices, and her articles have appeared in Outpatient Surgery magazine. Her articles focus on the practical, hands-on knowledge operating room professionals can benefit from—never lacking in entertainment as she unfolds the true reality and struggles that are faced every day in the operating room setting. She is also a small business owner of a startup sales and marketing consulting agency.

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