Reprocessors Help Hospitals Reduce Waste
As discussed in Part 1 of this series, hospitals produce 2 million tons of solid waste per year. Medical devices, most of which are by design, single-use devices (SUDs), contribute significantly to the problem.
Before the 1990s, hospitals reprocessed a limited amount of devices for reuse. However in the 1990s, the FDA took notice and was concerned that the hospitals were not bringing devices back to their original sterility, efficacy and safety standards. FDA clearance and adherence to strict guidelines for device reprocessing became required.
When hospitals could no longer manage reprocessing internally, third-party reprocessors jumped in to fill the gap. Leading reprocessor Ascent, A Stryker Sustainability Solution, winner of the Practice Greenhealth Champion for Change Award, now works with almost 1,900 hospitals in the U.S. to divert 5.3 million pounds of waste from the landfills and saves some hospitals more than $600,000 per year.
Reprocessed devices typically cost 40 percent to 60 percent less than new ones. The Association of Medical Device Reprocessors (AMDR) estimates total U.S. hospital 2008 savings from reprocessing at $178 million. According to Thording, to date the FDA has only cleared approximately 2 percent of medical devices for reprocessing and, so far, not all hospitals have fully leveraged reprocessing to maximize savings. HE noted that third-party industry analysts project domestic market growth at more than 20 percent each year for the next five years.