OR Nurse describes that “Going green,” “greening,” and “sustainability” are all becoming common terms in American society, and the healthcare industry is paying attention. The healthcare industry makes up 18% of the U.S. gross domestic product, and projected to reach 34% by 2040.  It also is the second largest generator of waste, producing more than 6,000 tons of waste per day and more than 4 billion tons annually. Of that waste, it’s estimated that 20% to 30% of all hospital waste is generated in the OR.  Hospitals must also pay for this waste disposal, which accounts for approximately 20% of a hospital’s environmental services budget.

Clinicians are beginning to realize that the pledges they took to avoid harming patients have direct environmental implications. Hospitals are not only working to decrease their environmental footprint, but they’re also saving green such as through the reprocessing of medical devices.  Nurses are taking advantage of reprocessing programs as one way in which hospitals and health systems can “green” the OR:

The reprocessing or remanufacturing of single-use medical devices (SUDs) is a key component when looking to incorporate sustainable practices. Reprocessing is regulated by the U.S. FDA, which states that, “before SUDs can be reprocessed and reused, a third party or hospital reprocessor must comply with the same requirements that apply to original equipment manufacturers, including the following:

  • Submitting documents for premarket notification or approval
  • Registering reprocessing firms and listing all products
  • Submitting adverse event reports
  • Tracking devices whose failure could have serious outcomes
  • Correcting or removing unsafe devices from the market
  • Meeting manufacturing and labeling requirements.
  • All reprocessed medical devices are approved by the FDA. As of June 2009, the U.S. Government Accountability Office hasn’t found evidence of any increased health risks with the use of reprocessed SUDs.”

In addition to saving money by reducing infectious waste, reprocessing and reusing SUDs has been shown to save purchasing costs, since reprocessed items are typically purchased at 40% to 60% of the cost of buying new products.According to Practice Greenhealth, more than 70% of hospitals across the country are reprocessing their FDA-eligible medical devices.

Read further about the ways in which hospitals can reduce costs and waste here