How much does an automated surgical instrument tracking system cost?

[fa icon="calendar"] 22-Apr-2016 13:24:48 / by Michael Stanton


The price of a surgical instrument tracking system is an important consideration if you are considering moving to an automated solution. In order to put together a business case, you will, besides the cost, also need to know the difference between the various offerings and what you can expect to be included in each system.

Documenting your specific requirements is the first logical step to determining the business case. Asking a provider of surgical asset tracking solutions how much such a system may cost, he or she is most likely respond that the cost is entirely depending on your organisation's needs. 

In this blog, I will walk you through the pricing process that I follow. It should give you an insight into how a solution is priced and why. So that, when it’s time for you to research your business case, you’ll be armed with the questions you need to get the answers you need and assess the final price.

What are your organisation's surgical asset tracking needs?

Putting together a business case without a thorough understanding of your organisation's requirements is like putting the cart before the horse. So start by asking why you need this and what problems the solution needs to overcome.  

Tracking systems generally have wide and varied functionality. Chances are that not every feature is relevant or needed for your hospital or medical facility. To determine what solution is best for my prospects I take them through a series of questions. 


  1. Do you need to track items through the washing process? What about Ultrasonics? Hand Wash?

  2. Do you need to track the packaging and assembly process?

  3. Sterilization is a given as its mandatory, so no question there.

  4. Do you need to track the release of items from your department?

  5. Do you need to track the use of sterile Items to patients?

  6. Do you need to track the return of items to the Sterilizing Department?

  7. Do you need to batch track or do you want to track to the individual instrument?Laser Etching?Data Matrix scanning?

  8. Do you need systems integration to Sterilizers and Washers? With Patient Admin systems?

  9. How important Is prosthesis tracking and cost of consumables to your organisation?


I have customers who just track sterilizing, while others track every single process. So in that respect, every organsation is unique in their needs and objectives.

Now that I know more about your organisation's needs, I must find out a bit about what you do.

What does your organisation do?

Once we have determined the functional specifications for your tracking solutions, I then will need to ask you more about how your organisation operates. For example, I would like to know more about your sterilization throughput and the number of theatres you have. These are factors that will impact the final cost of your tracking solution.

Here are the questions that I would ask you to help me to further determine that:

  1. Where are you located?

  2. How many sterilizers do you have? Steam? Sterrad? AER’s?

  3. Approximately how many items do you process each month?

  4. How many packing benches do you have?

  5. How many theatres do you have? Storerooms?

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What determines the cost of a surgical asset tracking solution and why?

Essentially, there are 7 things that determine the cost of a tracking system:

  • What your organisation needs
  • What it is your organisation does
  • Software Licensing
  • installation
  • Training
  • Hardware
  • Consumables

Software licensing structures are vendor dependent. Some charge an upfront fee for the license and a recurring amount for support. Others charge an annual recurring fee that covers both licensing and support. Others yet may charge a more substantial one off upfront fee only.

Cost of installation usually depends on the degree of in-house (or outsourced) IT support you can makeavailable and training is frequently charged on a per user basis. Again, this is vendor dependent and some will structure this differently or offer a flat rate.

The cost of the hardware (scanners, barcode label printers, computers etc.) is largely determined by what your needs are, the size of your operation and how it operates. Hence, this is why we ask the questions specified above.

The more processes you need to track, the more hardware you will need. For example, scanners are required at every tracking point. (e.g. wash, packaging, sterilizing, release, theatre, return).

How your organisation operates does also determines the amount of required hardware. A facility that processes 10,000 items per month, will need twice as many scanners and label printers than a facility that processes 5,000 items per month. Likewise, for in theatre tracking, you’ll need a scanner for each operating theatre. 

Consumables can be a hidden cost, but this is easy to work out based on your throughput. You need one sticker for every item processed. So, ask any prospective vendor what the per label cost is and you will be able to work out what to budget for consumables. 

So how much can I expect a surgical tracking system to cost for my organisation?

As you can see from the above discussion, there are many variables that determine the price of a tracking system. So to find out what it will cost you exactly, you will need to talk to prospective vendors. For the purposes of this blog however, I will give you a ball park estimate based on generalised assumptions.

Small facility (1-2 procedure rooms)

First year – License and Support, 2 scanners, 1 label printer, consumables, installation & training - $15,000 - $30,000

Each year after – License and Support, consumables - $5-$15,000.00 per year

Medium facility (2-4 procedures rooms)

First year – License and Support, 4 scanners, 2 label printers, consumables, installation & training - $30,000 - $45,000

Each year after - License and Support, consumables - $15-$30,000.00 per year

Large facility (6-12 procedure rooms)

First year – License and Support, 20 scanners, 4 label printers, consumables, installation & training - $45,000 - $90,000

Each year after - License and Support, consumables - $30-$60,000.00 per year

Very large facility (12-20 procedure rooms)

First year – License and Support, 30 scanners, 6 label printers, consumables, installation & training - $50,000 - $120,000

Each year after - License and Support, consumables - $60-$120,000.00 per year


Determining the final cost of a tracking system can be a challenge. Especially when you’re faced with vendors who structure prices very differently to one another. 

I think it’s a bit like trying to compare mobile phone plans, it can really be a bit perplexing, but if you use the questions above as your toolkit it can help you to cut through the maze and ascertain a firm final price.


guide to instrument tracking systems

Topics: Surgical Instruments, AS/NZS4187

Michael Stanton

Written by Michael Stanton