mdSource: Medical Device Developments

There are many challenges to pre-hospital sterilisation methods of medical equipment, from single-use disposable devices to longer-lasting equipment designed to work for years. Kerry Taylor-Smith explores the ongoing debate around reprocessing single-use devices. Association of Medical Device Reprocessors president Daniel Vukelich explains how single-use device reprocessing is a good way of containing costs without risking patient safety.

If a device is designed to be used just once, then that is the end of its life cycle. Or so one might think; in actual fact, many single-use devices (SUDs) are reprocessed and made safe for use again, and again, and again.

SUDs first appeared in the 1980s because of increasing concern regarding the safety of multiple-use devices in terms of infection risk. At the time, no one really thought about their impact on the environment, but with overflowing landfills and soaring costs of healthcare, repurposing them is now considered the responsible thing to do. Some SUDs really are designed for single use and are therefore disposed of; others are just labelled so by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), leading some healthcare providers to believe that SUDs are only safe for one use. In fact, this is not always the case, and many SUDs can and are remanufactured either by the OEM or by third-party reprocessors. If a single-use instrument has been properly cleaned, tested and considered functional, repackaged and sterilised, then it can – and should – be reused…

Daniel Vukelich, president of the Association of Medical Device Reprocessors (AMDR) – which represents the legal and regulatory interests of third-party reprocessors of medical devices labelled for single use, and is dedicated to educating consumers and the healthcare community regarding the safety, legality, and benefits of third-party reprocessing – believes that sceptics are probably unaware of the realities.

“Ultimately, in our view, companies that are responsive to their healthcare providers’ needs are going to be successful in the long run. Hospitals cannot afford to throw away millions of dollars worth of recoverable devices every year – it is irresponsible and unsustainable. The marketplace is going to reward reprocessors that help hospitals and surgical centres to achieve their objectives,” argues Vukelich.

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