The OR is the largest generator of revenue for hospitals and accounts for approximately 40% of total revenue. The OR also comprises up to 56% of overall hospital supply expense. Surgical services also have a significant environmental footprint.  As a management strategy, sustainability reduces costs, creates new revenue streams, and develops more innovative business models. A 2012 study demonstrated that if all of the nation’s hospitals adopted a set of environmental best practices (a number of which were OR-specific), the healthcare system could save $5.4 billion over 5 years, with ongoing and increasing savings of $15 billion over 10 years.

An insufficient business case is often cited as a barrier to implementation of environmental measures. Ironically, a business analysis of environmental best practices not only debunks the perception that “green” costs more, it actually creates a more compelling rationale for adopting such initiatives. An emerging set of environmental best practices is being defined for the OR that protects patient and caregiver safety, creates financial savings, and reduces environmental impact.

Single-use device reprocessing

The collection of FDA-approved, single-use devices (SUDs) for reprocessing is another strategy to reduce waste. Most major reprocessing vendors provide free collection services. The Government Accountability Office has validated that reprocessed SUDs pose no greater risk to patient safety than devices from original equipment manufacturers. Discounts of more than 50% provide financial savings while still ensuring quality and protecting patient safety. SUD collection and reprocessing could save hospitals more than $540 million each year or nearly $2.7 billion over 5 years.

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