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Six steps to make single-use device reprocessing more effective

November 29, 2021
Business Affairs
Lars Thording
By Lars Thording

Since 2000, hospitals have used FDA-regulated single-use device reprocessors to reduce costs across hospital service lines and lessen the environmental impact of single-use devices. The process of re-using single-use devices involves partnering with a reprocessor, which sets up systems for collecting certain single-use devices that are FDA-cleared to reprocess. The reprocessor then cleans, tests, inspects, and sterilizes the used devices and make them available to the hospital at a much lower cost than a new device. Devices included in reprocessing programs vary widely – from compression sleeves and pulse oximeters to OR devices and cardiology devices. As a result of reprocessing, hospitals can acquire technology they otherwise couldn’t afford, hire more nurses, offer their services to more patients, or otherwise improve care. The process is safe, scientifically advanced, and regulated by FDA.

The economic impact of reprocessing is substantial. Some service lines can reduce their procedure device costs by up to a third, with some hospitals saving millions of dollars every year. We are not talking about just paying for the department’s annual Christmas party. We’re talking about an opportunity to significantly improve patient care. The COVID pandemic and the climate crisis have only intensified the call for hospitals to look for solutions that make a difference in terms of the environment and in terms of the supply chain.

However, studies show that the average hospital doesn’t even get close to savings as much as it potentially could. In the cardiology space, for example, hospital departments typically only realize about a third of reprocessing’s savings potential. A cardiology department that could save $900,000 per year typically saves about $300,000. Given the financial instability in US hospitals, this sounds odd, if not overtly negligent, given that cardiology is still plagued by ever-increasing technology prices and reimbursement that just doesn’t follow suit.

Six factors determine how much a healthcare department at a hospital can save through reprocessing. To achieve the savings potential – and potentially triple savings - healthcare departments need to ensure that all these factors are addressed and optimized to achieve maximum savings:

1. Collection compliance
Healthcare departments must diligently work to collect all devices from procedures their reprocessor has clearance to reprocess. Some reprocessable devices in cardiology yield savings of more than $1,000 per device, so failing to place even one of these in the reprocessing collection system is expensive. Reprocessors typically go to great lengths to educate staff about what can be reprocessed and what can’t, yet collection compliance is very frequently an issue.

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