Hospitals today are looking for ways to “go green” in their processes, especially in the OR. Reusing surgical instruments and equipment is one way the OR can be more eco-friendly in its practices, but it’s important how to do so properly. Here, Matt Rudolph, Vice President of Operations and Chief Customer Advocate for Spectrum Surgical Instruments Corp. discusses what OR professionals should know when reusing surgical instruments and equipment in an effort to “go green.”
What are some examples of materials/instruments that can be re-used in the OR?
- Laparoscopic instruments (reusable)
- Bowls / basins (metal or re-usable plastic)
- Suction tubes (metal)
- Towel clamps
- Tip protectors
- Scissors and Needleholders
How does re-using instruments when possible help keep the OR “green?”
It reduces medical waste and reduces waste from packaging
What are important things to keep in mind when re-using instruments?
- Use approved/proper cleaning solutions to prolong the life of the instruments
- Use proper cleaning devices: brushes and ultrasonic cleaning
- Implement a proactive instrument repair/refurbishing program
- Educate staff: Conduct frequent educational programs focusing on instrument inspection and testing standards
When purchasing reusable instruments/materials, are there certain features or other aspects in a product to look for that will facilitate reusability?
- Surgical instruments: German instruments are manufactured with the highest quality stainless steel and will last many years while Pakistan instruments have a much shorter limited life.
- Warranty: A comprehensive instrument warranty is indicative that the manufacturer stands behind the durability and quality of the instruments.
- Metal instruments and materials will not be as affected by processing / sterilization as plastic or polymers in most cases.
Are there ways to be even more environmentally friendly when re-using instruments?
Use “Green Friendly” instrument cleaning solutions and implement an instrument recycling program
Why is being environmentally friendly in the OR important for the hospital?
The Operating Room can lead the Green Initiatives that the entire facility is trying to meet.
What insight would you offer to a hospital caught in the “reusable versus disposable” debate?
Evaluate each product category separately. Product cost, processing costs and patient safety are all important factors to consider.
Are there environmentally responsible efforts manufacturers are making today that surgical/purchasing professionals should be aware of when looking to make “green” purchases?
Yes. Manufacturers are moving toward Green Friendly materials and solutions. This includes not only components of the product but also packaging. It is also important to verify that the product is Green and that the sales rep isn’t making false or inaccurate claims. Ask the company to share other programs and efforts that they are making.
Also, look to your instrument vendor for programs such as instrument recycling. For instance, instruments can be shipped to Spectrum where they will be restored and donated to relief agencies such as MedWish International, who will then direct them to areas in need, such as Haiti.