At AMDR we are committed to the ways in which reprocessing can bring about savings to a healthcare system in need of solutions. Reprocessing of single-use medical devices brings about the same clinical care for a fraction of the cost of a new device. Even so, there still exist major hurdles that prevent hospitals from fully accessing theses savings. Many of these hurdles are a direct result of interference by some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). In spite of the economic challenges facing hospitals today (see the WSJ article “U.S. Hospital Profits Fall as Labor Costs Grow and Patient Mix Shifts”), several OEMs obstruct access to reprocessing by actively designing, marketing, and developing restrictive contracting, such as minimum purchase requirements, tying, bundling or similar arrangements, for their medical devices to limit the savings from reprocessing. More alarming still, some OEMs are refusing to provide case support for procedures that use a reprocessed device, further penalizing a hospital for choosing reprocessing.
Forced obsolescence is another tactic used by OEMs to thwart reprocessing. Specifically, some OEMs are inserting electronic chips into devices or updating generator software, making older medical device models un-reprocessable. We have also seen an instance of an OEM sponsoring a white paper that attempts to discredit the regulated, commercial single-use device reprocessing industry, and this from a company that stands to gain financially when reprocessing programs are thwarted. (See the AMDR response to the white paper here.) These companies, though a select few, represent a significant share of the device market and their anti-reprocessing efforts are happening not just here in the United States, but AMDR’s members report evidence of similar tactics on an international scale as well.
AMDR urges hospitals to really question medical device sales reps offers to “upgrade software” or bring in new models of devices if it means the institution can no longer reprocess or extend the lifespan of those products. AMDR urges hospitals and healthcare providers to ask their medical device vendors what they are doing to maximize the lifespan of the devices they are selling, reduce medical waste and bring down costs. If their answer is less than convincing, ask an AMDR member to evaluate how they can ramp up waste reduction efforts with commercial medical device reprocessing. The future of healthcare requires the medical device industry to enter into a new paradigm where the focus is on providing value to healthcare rather than pursuing one-sided profit goals. This means that reprocessing should be an integrated element in medical device technology development and marketing.