The high cost of disposing medical waste, increasing biohazardous waste
in the envoronment and burgeoning healthcare costs have forced many
healthcae facilities to reconsider reuse of medical instruments
and devices. Further, despite concerns about patient safety, evidence seems to favor reuse, by-and-large.
The report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found
that practice of reuse of medical instruments and devices doesn't
increase any risk.
Reprocessing for reusing single-use medical devices
was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000,
subject to stringent sterilization guidelines. Back then, there wasn't
enough data on failure rates of these processes. Now after nearly eight
years of evidence it was found that of the total of 320,000 adverse
event reports the FDA received between 2003 and 2006, only a fraction
(0.1 percent) could be linked to reprocessed medical instruments and
This independent study was not only helpful in allaying fears about the
risk of reuse, but reaffirmed that reprocessing medical devices and
medical instruments reduces costs and waste.
While many devices may be reusable, the same isn't true of consumables such as diagnostic supplies e.g biopsy needle
, dental instrument e.g. dental needle
, or an ophthalmic consumable item such as an eye needle
. Nonetheless, surgical instruments such as hemostatic forceps
or physiostherapy supplies e.g. barbell
or an exercise ball
Back in the year 2000, the GAO report to congress titled: "Single
Use Medical Devices: Little Available Evidence of Harm from Reuse, but
Oversight Warranted," indicated that if appropriate cleaning, testing
and sterilization procedures are carefully followed, it could result in
significant savings for hospitals.
An FDA survey in February 2002 revealed that 24 percent of hospitals
were using at least one type of reprocessed Single-Use Device (SUD) and
a larger number of them outsourced reprocessing, or hired "third
parties," for the purpose.
While the resultant cost savings can be validated by face-to-face discussions with reprocessing vendors from the medical industry
and hospitals, the actual savings would vary based on a number of
factors. These include staff compliance, range and type of devices
reporcessed, cost of the devices reprocessed, how fast such a program
is implemented, number of times a device can be reused, etc. Generally,
reusable medical products do cost more up front, however in the the
long run can turn out to be money savers in addition to being more
The medical waste disposal process first came under scrutiny after a
few incidents of medical waste washing up on beaches during the 1980s.
Despite many healthcare facilities already reusing medical instruments
and devices,based on a new report from Kalorama Information
on Reusable Medical Devices they still produced about 7,200 tons of waste each day in 2007.
Protecting the environment is the need of the hour and the world is
moving towards the three R's - reduce, reuse, and recycle. To organize
these efforts the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the
Agency (EPA) had initiated a joint-program to
reduce hospitals' total waste volume by 50 percent by 2010. Also,the
EPA's revised guidelines in January 2007, indicated a need to reduce
the use of infectious medical waste incinerators (a waste management equipment
) for environmental reasons.
These equipment have become sophisticated over the years and they can manage many different consumables including syringes e.g. insulin syringe
or safety syringe
, bandages e.g. adhesive dressing
or eye dressing pad
The Business of Reusable Devices
The reusable medical devices and instruments market is a growing
industry and is presently valued at $4 billion, and is forecasted for a
significant annual growth rate of 12.9% through 2012. At present,
orthopedic and general surgery instruments and devices account most of
the trade, which represented 37% and 31% of the total market in 2007,
Considering the many benefits including cost savings and environmental
protection, coupled the market opportunity, the practice of reusing
medical instruments and devices indeed promises lasting benefits.