Reprocessing Medical Devices Can Save Hospitals Money

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The practice of reprocessing single-use medical devices arouses the suspicion of some hospitals and healthcare leaders. But many more are finding that they can save millions of dollars in costs for their organizations by reprocessing alone, Chelsea Rice reports for HealthLeaders Media.

In 2012, 350 hospitals participated in the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, a nonprofit coalition comprised of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), The Center for Health Design, and Practice Greenhealth. The coalition’s goal is to increase healthcare’s positive impact on the environment, and together, these nonprofits have delineated “six specific measurable sustainability initiatives” or challenges: Engaged Leadership, Healthier Food, Leaner Energy, Less Waste, Safer Chemicals, and Smarter Purchasing.

The participating hospitals saved $32 million in 2012 alone through single-use medical device reprocessing. They also “recycled more than 50 million pounds of materials [and] diverted 61.5 million pounds of construction and demolition waste from landfills…”

Founder of HHI Gary Cohen said, “The ROI is quickest on initiatives such as reducing energy expenditures. ROI is usually 3.5 years on expenditures in these areas. People can start tomorrow with a whole set of things that barely cost any money at all.”

Hospitals are starting to factor “green revolving funds” into their budgets to “finance these initiatives, which invest in their energy-efficiency strategies…Then they are taking the return on those energy and waste-reduction initiatives to invest in the next level.”

Cohen believes, “If you aren’t doing those things, you just aren’t operating an efficient business in healthcare. On the waste side, there’s almost no capital expenditure at all, it’s just process change, [toward] recycling and waste segregation, so that waste goes down, so that doesn’t spend any money. That’s just attention, it’s just a matter of learning from others. Reprocessing saves lots of money.”

In fact, Rice writes, “Single-use device reprocessing had the highest data-sharing rate of all the HHI Challenges, which indicates how important it is to align business partners and supply-chain professionals in order to track data and monitor performance.”

HHI see the participation of these 350 hospitals, along with the overall 700 healthcare providers who have committed to their mission, as proof that “there’s a growing interest in improving environmental impacts on patients and the surrounding environment.”

HHI’s report states, “It demonstrates the transition of healthcare sustainability from grassroots to leadership offices, indicating that it is becoming less of a one-off trend and more of a strategic priority for healthcare organizations.”

As healthcare executives, what are you doing to make your organizations more sustainable? Have you considered single-use medical device reprocessing? What other sustainability initiatives have you implemented?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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