Stryker Sustainability Solutions, formerly Ascent, is one of the leading third-party medical device reprocessing organizations in the United States. The company’s reprocessing and remanufacturing programs help more than 1,800 hospitals divert thousands of pounds of medical waste from landfills. For a sense of hospital involvement in reprocessing on a larger scale, reprocessing programs are currently employed by all U.S. News & World Report “Honor Roll” hospitals.
Surgical Products recently spoke with Lars Thording, senior director of marketing and public affairs for Stryker Sustainability Solutions, to discuss instrument reprocessing and remanufacturing, and what it can offer surgical facilities in terms of environmental and cost savings.
SP: Can you explain how the whole process of reprocessing and remanufacturing instruments works?
LT: Third-party single-use device (SUD) reprocessing is an FDAregulated industry. SUD reprocessing is codified in federal law and requires FDA 510(k) clearance to assure the reprocessed or remanufactured device is substantially equivalent to the original device. The process works like this:
- First, we work with hospitals to set up simple and efficient collections systems.
- After collections, the device gets sorted by type, then cleaned and decontaminated according to item-specific protocols.
- It is then returned to its original specifications as dictated by rigid FDA requirements.
- After that, the device is repackaged according to industry standards, and sterilized using our environmentally-friendly systems.
SP: How is instrument reprocessing a green solution for surgical facilities?
LT: Reprocessing and remanufacturing are proven solutions to address hospitals’ economic and environmental responsibilities without compromising safety or efficacy. This is something hospitals are striving for in today’s challenging and fast-changing healthcare environment.
Operating rooms are some of the most resource-intensive and waste-generating places in hospitals, generating between 20 and 30 percent of a facility’s waste. Much of that waste is disposed of as regulated medical waste, which costs 10 to 15 times more to dispose of than regular waste. Half of OR budgets are spent on supplies that are thrown away, having been used once or not at all, even though re-use may be an option. By taking these devices out of the waste stream and remanufacturing them, in 2010, our programs helped customers divert an estimated 6.6 million pounds of medical waste from local landfills.
Reprocessing programs that have the support of a hospital’s executive team and the engagement of key staff such as surgeons, nurses and scrub techs have a tremendous ability to positively impact the deliver of care by saving money and diverting medical waste from landfills.
SP: Do reprocessed instruments have any implications in terms of infection or safety risk to the patient?
LT: Reprocessed devices are as safe and effective as original equipment, and there is no evidence that the use of reprocessed devices increases the risks associated with a medical procedure. The devices reprocessed or remanufactured by Stryker Sustainability Solutions, and other third-party reprocessors, comply with the FDA’s 510(k) and Quality System Regulation (QSR) requirements. Reprocessing must meet the same regulations as OEMs and then some.
SP: Are there financial benefits hospitals can realize through instrument reprocessing?
LT: Reprocessing not only helps divert medical device waste from landfills, but it also reduces supply costs. Remanufactured devices are about half the cost of single-use devices. This not only saves money, but allows hospitals to deploy more of their scarce resources to enhancing patient care through quality initiatives such as hiring more nurses, or purchasing much-needed equipment. Some hospitals have saved more than $600,000 in a single year, enabling hospitals to redirect financial resources to patient care initiatives.
The Cost Savings Calculator, which can be found on the Stryker Sustainability website, estimates the cost savings and waste reduction potential for a hospital if it focuses on reprocessing as a best practice. The tool is designed as a guide to help hospitals estimate the potential results reprocessing can deliver based on size and program utilization.
For example, a hospital with 250 staffed beds that implements a reprocessing program in both the operating room (OR) and EP lab could save as much as $1 million dollars and divert roughly 8,000 pounds of waste from landfills each year if the hospital makes a strategic and organizational commitment to reprocessing.
Savings and waste estimates provided by the calculator are based on averages achieved by actual Stryker Sustainability Solutions reprocessing customers that have identified reprocessing as a target program, and achieved the highest savings.
SP: What types of instruments can/can’t be reprocessed?
LT: It is critical to understand that most SUDs cannot be reprocessed; yet, there are more than 100 single-use devices that can. This includes non-invasive devices such as compression sleeves and pulse oximeters; operating room devices such as trocars and harmonic scalpels; and electrophysiology devices such as EP catheters.
Remanufactured devices are used in a wide range of clinical areas including cardiology, orthopedics, gastroenterology, general surgery and endoscopic surgery.
SP: Why is achieving green initiatives a topic surgical facilities/ hospitals need to consider now and for the future?
LT: Healthcare facilities are the second leading contributor of waste in the U.S., producing more than 4 billion pounds of waste annually. An industry-wide effort is necessary to lead healthcare sustainability through the development of products, services and comprehensive programs that support the conservation of environmental and hospital resources. The medical technology industry is in a unique position to affect change by championing sustainability initiatives such as reprocessing. Third-party single-use device reprocessing is regulated by the FDA to assure safety and efficacy.