“No one really thinks of good hospitals as massive waste producers, but they are,” says lead author Martin Makary. “There are many things hospitals can do to decrease waste and save money that they are not currently doing.” The recommendation of researchers noted that with proper sterilization, recalibration and testing, reuse of equipment is safe.
Hospitals toss out everything from surgical gowns and towels to laparoscopic ports and expensive ultrasonic cutting tools after a single use. In operating rooms, some items that are never even used are thrown away — single-use devices that are taken out of their packaging must be tossed out because they could have been contaminated. Selecting such good devices for resterilization and retesting could decrease the amount of needless waste from hospitals. And, the researchers say, hospitals could procure more items designed to be used safely more than once after being sterilized.
Only about a quarter of hospitals in the United States used at least one type of reprocessed medical device in 2002, and while the number is growing, the practice is not yet widespread, they say. Banner Health in Phoenix, they write, saved nearly 1.5 million U.S. dollars in twelve months from reprocessing operating room supplies such as compression sleeves, open but unused devices, pulse oximeters and more.
Safety concerns with reprocessing include possible malfunction of devices, the risk of transmitting infections, and the ethical dilemma that reprocessing presents given the absence of patient consent to usage of such devices in their treatment. The government requires all reprocessed equipment to be labeled as such, along with the name of the reprocessing company. A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded reprocessed devices do not present an increased health risk over new devices.
Makary says: “Some people don’t like the idea that they’re being treated with equipment that has been used before. But these reprocessed devices are as good as new since the testing standards for reuse are impeccable and there have been no patient safety problems in our analysis.”
MEDICA.de; Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine