Linen handler Berona Joseph stocks a scrubs-dispensing machine on Tower 2.

While vending machines are typically associated with dispensing snacks, a similar system is used by hospitals around the country, including the Brigham, to distribute scrubs to staff.

BWH recently replaced its scrubs-dispensing machines with newer models that operate faster and improve inventory management – enabling staff to retrieve scrubs more quickly and from a continually well-stocked machine. The upgrade also added several machines outside the Operating Rooms (OR), which previously made scrubs available to staff on an open rack. Several return machines have also been installed throughout BWH for discarding used scrubs.

The new machines, called scrubEX, dispense a pair of scrubs in about four seconds. They are expected to save the Brigham money while also making scrub retrieval easier for staff.

Previously, staff had to carry and scan a separate barcode to obtain scrubs from the older machines. The new system is programmed to read a standard hospital ID badge. With one tap of a badge on the card reader, the machine dispenses a pair of scrubs in the individual’s preferred sizes, said Jonathan Santiago, director of Materials Management.

Additionally, prior to the upgrade, Materials Management’s Linens team was not automatically notified when the machines and racks were running low on certain sizes. The new system sends an alert to Materials Management when a machine needs to be restocked.

“Our new system is going to change the way our staff handle the scrub pick-up and return process,” said Santiago. “The scrubEX machines are lightning-fast and make the scrub-selection process a breeze. The new system will allow us to promptly provide staff with the appropriate clothing they need to fulfill their daily tasks.”

Santiago noted the upgrade was a collaborative effort with several groups, including Environmental Services, Information Systems and Office Services. It is also an initiative of Partners 2.0 – a system-wide effort to optimize efficiency across Partners HealthCare and achieve better health for patients.

Cost Savings

In addition to decreasing the amount of time it takes to receive a pair of scrubs, the new machines are expected to save the Brigham upwards of $400,000 a year in fees for unreturned scrubs.

BWH rents scrubs from an outside vendor, which delivers hundreds of clean scrubs each day and sanitizes used scrubs off-site. Each item in a pair of scrubs – top and bottom – contains a microchip the vendor uses to identify unreturned items. When scrubs are not returned to the vendor within 60 days, the Brigham is charged for each missing item.

With the new system, each staff member who wears scrubs will receive two or three credits, depending on where they work within the hospital. Each pair of scrubs “costs” one credit. When the scrubs are returned, the person gets that credit back. Santiago expects the return rate for scrubs to significantly increase with scrubEX.

The new system goes live Monday, Aug. 20, and Materials Management staff will be on hand to assist staff with operating the machines.

Five Facts About Scrubs: Brigham Edition

  • 1,536 sets of scrubs are supplied on an average weekday.
  • 915 sets of green scrubs and 480 sets of blue scrubs are delivered to the Brigham daily.
  • Each scrubEX machine can hold 128 sets of scrubs.
  • Green scrubs are used by OR staff.
  • Blue scrubs are used by staff in all other areas.