Is Reprocessing Medical Devices Effective?
Gone are the days when central sterile processing (CSP) was enough to ensure that medical professionals were getting the best possible usage out of a vaginal speculum. With all of the outbreaks that have taken place over the past 20 years — outbreaks which, incidentally, could have been avoided — we’ve come up with this list of benefits that a single-use vaginal speculum has over a reprocessed vaginal speculum.
- The passage of the 2014 Affordable Healthcare Act(AHA), resulted in a surge of people who came into emergency rooms for care. As an end result, each speculum got used more and more, which not only lead to a slowdown of the process of central sterilization (because the processing centers couldn’t turn them around fast enough — it’s not enough to just clean the implement, but it needs to be sterilized, and then assessed for any damage; this process can take up to two hours a day), but an increased chance of exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (because many hospitals were “cutting corners” in order to turn the implements around quicker, some implements weren’t properly cleaned and/or sterilized). The use of a single-use vaginal speculum saves both time and patient risk.
- The use of a single-use vaginal speculum also saves money. Even though the average multi-use speculum costs between $10-$50, there is the added cost of maintaining these specula. As was mentioned in the previous point, each of these specula have to be processed and sterilized. The actual process of sterilization costs money in terms of both supplies and labor. Some experts suggest that the cost of maintaining a multi-use speculum can run as high as $1500!
- Finally, single-use specula show increased care for both the environment and the patient. The process of sterilization can, sometimes, leech bioaccumulative toxins (such as mercury) into the environment, and this risk is completely eliminated with the use of a single-use speculum. In addition, when patients come into the emergency room for emergency care (as opposed to a routine checkup), there’s an immediate need that requires fulfillment, and using a readily-available single-use speculum — that hasn’t been cross-contaminated! — can ensure high-quality and efficient care for patients.