American Nurse Today in an April 2013 issue describes how healthcare today is at a critical juncture where finding a balance between better care at lower costs is imperative. Managing resources through sustainability practices is often discussed to meet these objectives, and institutions can dramatically generate cost savings with almost no up-front investment and minimal disruption to operations through third-party reprocessing programs.

Third-party reprocessors are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and held to the same standards as original equipment manufacturers of single-use medical devices (SUD). A reprocessed SUD is an original device that has previously been used on a patient and has been subjected to additional processing and manufacturing for the purpose of an additional single-use on a patient. Reprocessed SUDs are cleaned, remanufactured, sterilized, and repackaged for re-use.

A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found reprocessed SUDs to have a reliable safety record of excellence similar to that of new equipment, while being more cost effective and environmentally friendly.

Reprocessing programs are currently employed by more than half of U.S. hospitals. The level of savings from using reprocessed devices varies by device type and program participation; however, hospitals typically pay about half the cost for a reprocessed medical device versus the original equipment manufactured device labeled as “single-use.” Hospitals can also save money that would be spent on special handling and waste management of that device. These cost savings can be used as investments in technology, educational programs, quality equipment, and hiring and retaining critical staff members.

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