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Unlocking SUD reprocessing savings in your OR

April 30, 2017
Operating Room
Bill Scott
From the April 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Bill Scott

Operating rooms (ORs) are one of the leading contributors to a health system’s medical waste and supply chain spend. Health systems, large and small, that focus on implementing green initiatives in their OR have made significant strides in achieving financial and environmental sustainability in recent years. Practice Greenhealth examined this topic in its 2016 Sustainability Benchmark Report. One initiative that showed the largest impact in terms of cost savings was single-use device (SUD) reprocessing, helping some health systems achieve an annual savings of more than $12,500 per OR. What’s exciting about this initiative is that there are opportunities to expand those savings even further.

The OR is home to a number of devices that are suitable for reprocessing, including ultrasonic scalpels, laparoscopic instruments, trocars and arthroscopic shavers and wands. Because these items are frequently used, implementing an SUD reprocessing program opens the door for health systems to achieve significant financial savings by buying back reprocessed devices at a fraction of the original device cost.

While SUD reprocessing has been a widely embraced practice in the U.S. for 20 years, many health systems have not unlocked their full cost savings and waste reduction potential. Achieving savings requires hospitals to maximize the number of reprocessed devices purchased and reduce the number of new devices. However, surgeon engagement and vendor pushback are two of the most common obstacles that limit a health system’s ability to purchase reprocessed devices. Here is a closer look at these barriers and how to overcome them.

Surgeon engagement
A successful reprocessing program requires surgeon engagement. Often, surgeons are skeptical about the reprocessing industry based on misperceptions of device quality. To overcome this, the most successful health systems engage their reprocessing partner to help educate their staff about the rigorous reprocessing process every device undergoes under stringent FDA requirements and oversight. Sharing relevant industry research and statistics about the strong efficacy and safety record of reprocessed devices also helps correct misunderstandings, especially when peers deliver that message.

Terrence J. Loftus, M.D., MBA, FACS, a former medical director of surgical services and clinical resources at Banner Health, was one skeptical surgeon turned believer. To settle an internal debate about whether reprocessed devices were equivalent to original devices, he pulled data and analyzed the efficacy of the two types of devices at his facility. In his study, published in the Journal of Medical Devices, he found that original equipment manufacturer (OEM) devices were nearly five times more defective than reprocessed SUDs. Sharing these findings with staff can help build confidence in the safety of the devices, and improve surgeon engagement.

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