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Can your medical practice be green and still use single-use devices?

Can your medical practice be green and still use single-use devices?

The benefits of employing single-use tools in your medical practice are clear: They save time, are easy to use, are cost effective and most importantly, they can help protect a patient's health. This assertion is based on a 2014 study from Brigham Young University which revealed that reusable tools such as vaginal speculums can increase the risk of the spread of certain strains of the Human Papillomavirus.

Why is HPV cross-contamination problematic?
A ubiquitous condition among healthy, sexually active adults, HPV typically goes unnoticed by most patients. The virus can be problematic in some cases, however, as certain strains, such as HPV16, can sometimes lead to cancers in and around the genital region, particularly cervical cancer in women. Consequently, action must be taken to ensure that the spread of HPV in a clinical setting is kept to an absolute minimum. The Brigham Young University study is consequential, therefore, because researchers found that cancer-causing strains of HPV are resistant to even aggressive disinfection methods, such as those used on reusable medical tools in clinical and hospital settings.

The safest solution to this problem is therefore to make the switch from reusable medical tools to single-use devices. OBP Medical offers a range of single-use devices that are a cost-effective, efficient and safe alternative option to reusable instruments. We offer devices in an array of specialties – single-use cordless lighted retractors, lighted pediatric laryngoscopes, and lighted vaginal speculums, to name a few. All OBP Medical devices require no assembly and use a safe LED light source that does not produce excessive heat, meaning that the devices are always safe for disposal. 

Concerns for the environment
It's no secret that the medical industry produces a significant amount of waste – it's an unavoidable consequence of treating patients and saving lives. Furthermore, concerns about single-use devices adding to the already large amount of medical waste have grown in accordance with the boom in single-use industry. Indeed, as a growing number of physicians and medical practices reap the many benefits of single-use devices, more people are concerned about the potentially negative impact such devices can have on the environment.

Tips for a green medical practice
While it's true that single-use devices do add to environmental wastes, the health and safety benefits are widely regarded as outweighing the negative impact. It's also important to keep in mind that it's possible to run a green medical practice and utilize single-use devices. Going green can involve a number of strategies, all of which can help your medical practice play a small part in keeping the environment healthier. Review the list of sustainability tips below:

1. Recycle packaging
When it comes to single-use devices, it is important that you dispose of the tools after use. An effective way to reduce some of the waste associated with this process, however, is to recycle the packaging when possible, Healthy Debate argued. Ensure that you have recycling bins throughout your practice and train all practitioners in your facility to get in the habit of disposing the packaging from your OBP Medical devices separately. 

"Enlist the services of a company that handles medical waste disposal."

2. Enlist the help of professionals
As you are no doubt aware, disposing of medical waste must adhere to guidelines and procedures mandated by the federal government. If this isn't done you run the risk of exacerbating environmental harm as well as incurring penalties from the authorities. The best strategy, therefore, according to Hospitals-Management, is to enlist the services of a company that handles medical waste disposal. Although this costs more than handling the waste yourself, you'll be able to rest assured knowing that you're making the best decision, not only for the integrity of your practice by avoiding federal fines, but also for the environment.

3. Reduce energy use
One of the biggest drains on your bottom line and not to mention the environment is excessive energy use – think lights, use of electronics, the HVAC system and so on. Consequently, one of the most effective ways to ensure that your medical practice is as green as possible is to take steps to reduce your energy use, Healthcare Business & Technology explained. This approach can be implemented easily. Examples of ways to cut down on energy use include:

  • Turn off all lights at night.
  • Unplug all devices, such as computers, during periods when your practice will be closed for more than a day – so weekends and holidays.
  • Have your HVAC system inspected routinely to ensure that it is running properly. 
  • Keep windows closed while HVAC system is in use. 
  • Seal any cracks around windows and in the walls to reduce the escape of heat and air.
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs.
Adopting electronic health record platforms can reduce paper use in your practice.Adopting electronic health record platforms can reduce paper use in your practice.

4. Ensure cleaning products are environmentally friendly
Many industrial cleaning products are less than green, as they use harsh chemicals that pose a threat to the environment and possibly even patient well-being. Healthcare Business & Technology advised buying from vendors that specialize in green-friendly products. Furthermore, as Physicians Practice advised, use products in your bathroom that are as green as possible. Examples include green cleaners, green soap and tissue paper that is made from recycled paper.

5. Recycle general waste
It isn't just medical waste that your practice produces. Think of the food, water bottles, paper and other trash that comes through each and every day, Physicians Practice stated. If you haven't already, implement a practice-wide recycling program. Put on employee in charge of recycling coordination and make sure that recycling bins are placed widely throughout the premises. Also display signs in the waiting room to encourage patients to recycle anything they have that they may otherwise put in your normal trash can. The key to success in this area is heavy promotion – ensure that both staff and patients know that you are a green practice and that you expect them to comply with the new rules.

6. Go paperless
If you haven't adopted an electronic health record platform in your medical practice, now is the time. EHRs replace storing crucial information on paper records, which is highly beneficial not only for the environment but also patient security.