RT: For Decision Makers in Respiratory Care reports that as hospitals across the country look for ways to reduce healthcare costs, more and more product manufacturers and third-party companies have begun to offer reprocessing programs that provide the same reliable patient care but with an added savings and benefit to the environment.

When trying to identify ways to save money, the General Purchasing Organization at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore realized that the 12,800 pulse oximeter probes and 3,200 trocars and sleeves that went into the trash every year could present an opportunity. A chance to contract with a reprocessing company meant a reduction in expenses for the hospital and less waste in the landfill.

From a throwaway mind-set in the 1980s to a more environmentally conscious approach today, medical facilities are rethinking the way they use certain devices and equipment, according to Daniel J. Vukelich, Esq, president of the Association of Medical Device Reprocessors (AMDR). Thirty years ago, hospitals preferred to dispose of used medical devices, according to Vukelich. “Then the pendulum swung the other way. Hospitals decided they could clean and reuse devices instead of throwing them away.” There was one problem with this practice though. No one was following up to see if hospitals were actually cleaning equipment before reusing it.

So in August 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established the first reprocessing regulations by issuing a guidance document: “Enforcement Priorities for Single-Use Devices Reprocessed by Third Parties and Hospitals.” According to the FDA guidelines, essentially, any business or hospital that reprocesses a medical device would be classified as a manufacturer.However, because many hospitals had neither the resources nor the interest in taking on the manufacturer designation, they turned to third-party companies and the medical device recycling and reprocessing industry was created.

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