As hospitals and healthcare systems struggle with growing costs, shrinking revenues and pressures to reduce their environmental footprints, there is a tremendous opportunity for them to cut costs and waste through more sustainable practices.

Kenneth J. Baker, Upstate Medical University’s Materials Systems Manager in Syracuse, NY, states how Upstate launched a reprocessing initiative in 2010 that has generated significant cost savings while reducing the organization’s medical waste stream. By reprocessing two low-risk, non-invasive products — compression sleeves and pulse oximetry sensors — they saved over $250,000 in 2010. At the same time, they implemented reprocessing for orthopedic ex-fix devices with the product’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to save an additional $200,000 that year.  Over the past three years, based on this success, Upstate has added additional items to the reprocessing stream, including bits, blades and trocars from the OR, as well as items used in electrophysiology and the Cath Labs. To date, they have saved their organization over $1M.

“By recycling and reprocessing single use devices (SUDs) hospitals can significantly reduce their waste removal costs and environmental footprint,” adds Keith Hoof, Director of Marketing at Sterilmed, part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. “Reprocessed SUDs cost up to 50 percent less than new devices; as such, reprocessing directly impacts facilities’ bottom lines, allowing them to better provide access to quality care for their patients.”

“One of the most prominent trends we’re seeing is a more eco-centric, modified interpretation of what constitutes ‘waste’ by staff and hospital leadership,” said Kevin Liszewski, Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Accounts, Stryker Sustainability Solutions. “As adoption of sustainable practices has grown, the number of products traditionally categorized as waste has decreased. More items can now be safely reused, recycled or reprocessed, decreasing the overall environmental burden.”  “When hospitals evaluate ways to reduce waste, a great place to start is educating staff about the connection between their behavior and our environment,” said Liszewski. “It’s important to help staff understand how their daily actions — from recycling their empty water bottles, to properly sorting used devices into collection bins after a procedure — can impact the environment and the financial health of the institution. This communication and behavior change needs to be driven from the C-level.”

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