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Lasting Benefits Of Medical Device Reuse
By Themedica on November 17, 2008 11:16 AM |
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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.

Patient Safety

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 devices.

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.

Cost Savings

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.

Hospital-Medical-Cost-Savings.jpg 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 durable.

Environmental Benefits

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 Environmental ProtectionRecyclable-Medical-Devices-Instruments.jpg 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, etc.

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, respectively.

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.


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