Saving on Orthopedic Equipment: 4 Points on Reprocessing Single-Use DevicesWritten by Laura Miller | July 15, 2011
Stryker Sustainability Solutions is a division of Stryker devoted to reprocessing and remanufacturing single-use medical devices. Stryker acquired the company formerly known as Ascent over the past year and a half and became the only major orthopedic device companies to have a place in the medical device reprocessing market. Senior Director of Marketing and Public Affairs of Stryker Sustainability Solutions Lars Thording discusses how the reprocessing of medical devices can benefit hospitals, device companies and the environment.
1. Reprocessing certain single-use medical devices is safe. Many medical device (including orthopedic) companies label some of their products as single-use when these products can be reprocessed for multiple uses. There are a few companies across the country, including Stryker Sustainability Solutions, which are approved by the Food and Drug Administration to reprocess and remanufacture certain single-use devices, which are then sold back to the hospital at approximately 50 percent of the cover price. "The FDA controls reprocessing," says Dr. Thording. "We have approval from them on which devices can be reprocessed and how the reprocessing can be done."
Stryker Sustainability Solutions is able to identify devices that are salvageable and approved for reprocessing and remanufacturing. "There will be someone emptying all the devices on a table and sorting through which can and can't be reprocessed," he says. "Scrutiny is high when you are using something that is single-use." Once the device has been reprocessed, it must be proven as functional and clean as the original device.
2. Saving money for hospitals and ASCs. Since reprocessing companies are able to sell back reprocessed single-use orthopedic devices to healthcare providers for approximately half of the original cost, hospitals and ASCs are able to improve their use of limited resources by participating in the process. "We can take used devices and make them as good as new, which can save some of our partner hospitals $800,000 per year or more," says Dr. Thording. "Even if the hospital saves $60,000 from reprocessing, that's a significant enough savings to hire an extra nurse or embark on a different project."
Participating in the reprocessing program is relatively easy because it doesn't disturb the workflow of the OR. "We go in and add bins to the facility near the ORs and ask that the single-use devices are placed in there," says Dr. Thording. "We collect the bins and then ship them to our facilities for reprocessing."
3. Even the devices that can't be reprocessed are recycled to preserve the environment. There are obvious environmental advantages associated with the single-use devices that are able to be reprocessed and reused; however, the rejected devices are also disposed of in an environmentally-friendly manner. "For the reprocessable devices, we are able to disassemble and repair them before making them available to the hospitals," says Dr. Thording. "When devices aren't suitable, we break them down and have them recycled to limit the environmental impact."
4. Is reprocessing single-use medical equipment here to stay? Some medical device (including orthopedic) companies consider reprocessing companies to be competitors because they can offer lower prices to healthcare providers. However, Stryker now is itself one of the leading reprocessing companies in the country. "After years of reprocessing being a grass roots phenomenon, we have come to the point where certain device manufacturers are realizing that figuring out how to use resources more responsibly will be important going forward," says Dr. Thording. "The healthcare industry is becoming more focused on sustainability and more companies are interested in offering that service along with its superior technologies."
One of the biggest concerns among all professionals in the healthcare industry is the current and future decline in reimbursement rates for medical care. This trend is forcing healthcare providers to be more careful in their purchasing practices, which oftentimes points to the use of reprocessed products. "Medical device manufacturers and other suppliers are increasingly being told that visiting surgeons with products to optimize their own sales isn't enough," he says. "Device companies must have a way of providing more affordable resources and if they can't, the hospitals will go somewhere else. There is a slip between manufacturers who understand this and those who are resisting."
Learn more about Stryker Sustainability Solutions.
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