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It is time for a revolution in healthcare supply chain management

August 04, 2020
Business Affairs
From the August 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Long-term supply chain resilience
Reprocessing can also build resiliency into the supply chain. Strengthening the supply chain both saves money and can ensure we’re not in the future situation of unsafely reusing disposable PPE. Excessive and wasteful supply chain spending deprives our providers resources in other areas. Our front-line personnel are reusing N95 respirators right now, raising attention to things we took for granted in the past. Going forward, the use and the purchase of all device and supply assets must be given a hard look. Waste not, not want.

By transitioning to a focus on medical device and supply reuse or reprocessing, hospitals can reduce costs, build supply chain stability, and reduce waste. To do so:

- Hospital executives and purchasers must begin by making it a priority to purchase devices and supplies that can be reused by hospitals or reprocessed by reprocessors.

- Incremental changes made by manufacturers need to be evaluated closely to ensure subsequent iterations of existing device and supply stocks will not adversely impact medical device reuse or reprocessing operations.

- Healthcare professionals must treat devices and supplies as assets, not garbage, taking care of such products so they can be reused or reprocessed.

- Health professionals must prioritize proper reuse in central sterile departments and fully maximize reprocessed device usage to extract the greatest value. As with all belt tightening, first using what you already have alleviates the need to tap into the supply chain for more new equipment.

- Healthcare organizations can better control their inventory of medical device assets and supplies if there is greater internal coordination and cooperation with reprocessing firms. By doing so, hospitals are less reliant on outside firms having to ramp up production and ship from across the globe.

- Medical device makers should be encouraged and incentivized to consider device reuse or reprocessing in the earliest design phases of research and developing and in the marketing of new products.

- Regulators, such as FDA, and payors, such as CMS and insurers, should incentivize total life-cycle assessment of products to ensure those with longer value are used more than those with lesser value.

Green Hospitals may be better prepared to deal with COVID and, at the same time, not contribute to making people sick with the environmental pollution they create. Incinerated medical waste is considered a top source of dioxins. “Exposure to dirty air, carcinogens produced by burning waste, and neurotoxins such as mercury has caused significant harm to people, including birth defects, brain damage, and learning disabilities,” according to the Boston Globe. And “given the health care sector’s enormous impact, its healing mission, and its Hippocratic oath, hospitals ‘have an extra responsibility compared to other industries...’ says Gary Cohen” who co-found the group, Health Care Without Harm. This holistic view, from cradle to grave, of our medical equipment improves environmental sustainability, and improves health.

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