Enhance Efficiency and Organization with Open Storage Systems

Quick Rack and Quick Wire Open Storage Systems with medical supplies in a white room

Choosing open storage systems that work for a hospital’s storage spaces can be challenging. Supply room managers must find solutions that provide maximum storage space without compromising airflow, maneuverability, and cleanliness. 

This article will discuss a few regulatory guidelines concerning medical supply storage, the advantages and disadvantages of using open storage systems, and which supplies are appropriate for storage in wire rack and bin systems.

What Do Regulatory Agencies Say about Hospital Supply Storage Areas?

The Joint Commission reported that in 2021 auditors found that hospitals had difficulty meeting the standard of reducing supply-, device-, and medical equipment-associated infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) cost the U.S. healthcare industry $30 billion yearly. 

Supply rooms, where supplies are stored just before patient use, are a line of defense against HAIs. As such, supply room managers must heed regulatory guidelines that discuss how and where supplies are stored, such as:

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires that facilities maintain a clean and sanitary environment as part of their infection prevention and control program. Surveyors want to see aseptic storage areas and clear traffic zones.
  • The Joint Commission requires that central and surgical supply areas be climate controlled. Even departmental storage areas must have stable temperature control and good ventilation to prevent dust accumulation.
  • The CDC infection control guidelines stipulate that sterile supplies are kept 8 to 10 inches off the floor and that patient supplies are not stored under liquids or beneath sinks or pipes.

And while it may be tempting to overstock supplies or case packs onto wire storage racks, rough handling can cause tears or punctures in packaging. The CDC reports that research has shown that damaged packaging can introduce organisms into sterile or aseptic patient supplies. Supplies with damaged or moist packaging must be discarded or reprocessed before use to prevent the spread of pathogens.

What Are Some Advantages of Open Supply Storage Systems?

In secured supply rooms, open shelving and bins can help maximize space, save time, and promote a clean environment. 

Increased Efficiency

Studies have shown that nurses may spend anywhere from 36 minutes to an hour or more per shift on tasks that waste their time, such as searching for supplies.

Open supply shelving with color-coded bins and shelf labeling allows staff to quickly grab what they need without sorting through drawers or cabinets. 

In addition, storing frequently used items between the head and hip level can prevent staff injuries by reducing the number of times a person has to reach overhead, stoop, or bend. 

Better Organization Keeps Supplies Clean

Open wire rack storage systems support back-to-front stocking of supplies, ensuring that items nearing expiration are used first. This method prevents the loss of expired stock. 

Open supply systems support organization that keeps supplies from being crushed, scratched, punctured, or exposed to moisture or temperature changes that can cause condensation. Sterile packages that are not damaged or exposed to dirt, dust, or moisture have been shown to remain sterile for much longer than the expiration date on the package. 

To prevent supplies from being handled, high-visibility labeling can reduce the need for staff to touch supplies they don’t need while searching for what they do need. 


Configurable wire rack systems are invaluable as new medical supplies come on the market. 

When considering an open storage system, choose one that supports interchangeable bins and is adjustable to your needs. 

To gain storage space in an already crowded area, choose a movable aisle system. Incorporate high-density storage in small spaces using racks that slide together while providing easy access to the supplies you need.

Ease of Cleaning

Rack systems, elevated above the floor with a solid bottom shelf, allow cleaning staff to wet mop without contaminating the supplies.

To ensure a deep clean, choose a flexible storage rack system that dismantles for cleaning.

What Are Some Disadvantages of Open Storage Shelving?

Open shelving can become contaminated easier than closed cabinets and carts. Dust can be kicked up onto shelves and liquid spills can soak into packaging. If improperly managed, open storage can become a messy magnet in which organisms will thrive.

Open supply storage systems should only be used in appropriate areas. Clean and sterile supply rooms with positive pressure ventilation reduce dust circulation. Locked supply areas with limited access keep visitors and patients from introducing pathogens that can contaminate supplies. And staff should use good hand hygiene before entering supply areas.

What Can Be Stored in Open Storage Systems?

Adjustable wire storage systems can be configured to accommodate almost any medical supply item.

Departmental and central supply storage racks can store general medical supplies such as gloves, masks, gowns, syringes, and IV fluids.

Sterile supply rooms can be set up with open storage shelving to accommodate packaged surgical instruments, sterile surgical packs, and commonly used medications.

Some items are inappropriate for open-shelf storage, such as medications that require refrigeration or hazardous materials.

In addition, cardboard boxes can trap dust, attract mice, and absorb moisture, making them potential harbingers of pathogens and should not be stored in patient supply storage areas. 

Open supply storage systems can contribute to more efficient staff workflows, better organization of patient care supplies, and cleaner supply storage areas. Used in appropriate areas according to regulatory guidelines, flexible open shelving can serve a healthcare facility for many years to come.