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Unreliable and Unpredictable: Reusable Medical Devices’ Real Cost

Unreliable and Unpredictable: Reusable Medical Devices’ Real Cost

When it comes to health care, Americans make frequent use of available facilities and treatments for a wide range of ailments:

  • While hospital admissions have decreased in recent years, about 35 million Americans are admitted to a hospital every year.
  • One in five Americans visits the emergency room annually.
  • Nearly 85% of Americans have contact with a health care professional in a doctor’s office each year.
  • Common reasons for hospital visits and admissions include cancer, diabetes, blood and neuromuscular disorders, postoperative infections, urinary, skin and blood infections, bone fractures, asthma, and lung disorders.
  • The U.S. spends more money per person on healthcare than any developed nation: about $10,000 annually

Most outpatient and overnight stays require intervention with one or more medical devices. Many facility directors believe the most cost-effective action is reusable devices, requiring written protocols for decontamination, inspecting, and redistribution after each use. But the unseen cost of multi-use devices increases, along with the risk, every time a tool returns to a surgical tray.

Four Ways Your Multi-Use Devices’ Prices are Higher than You Think


Ordering, Shipping, Waiting, Returning, Stocking, Distributing

Before any medical instrument ever reaches the operating theater or patient care area, someone places an order for it. That same person likely maintains a log on how many devices are in stock, where they are, how many are on back order, expected shipping dates, and for multi-use devices in particular, which reprocessing center sent the device. Reprocessed devices are often returned to the hospital or doctor’s office as separate parts, and the contamination process begins once the package is opened and the device is reassembled, before patient contact even begins. If the multi-use devices are on back order, is the issue possible contamination at the facility? If compromised products need returning, what guarantee exists that the same devices will not return in the same condition?

Facing a shortage of correctly processed multi-use devices, restocking, and distribution turns into emergency triage. Every requesting department needs their order NOW, which requires staff to supply those most in need while leaving other departments without necessary instruments.

Cleaning, Processing, and Restocking

While the ancient Egyptians receive credit as the first to understand the idea and practicality of sterilization (using pitch, tar, salt, and various aromatics) more modern methods, including regular hand washing, carbolic spray, steam-powered machines, and the forerunners of the modern autoclave, advanced in the 1800s. These methods saved lives, but depended on human interaction and intervention. A lack of ingredients or education, or simply the belief that germs didn’t exist or cause harm resulted in well-intended methods rendered useless. Today’s advanced cleaning technology still leaves the possibility of human failure. Add to this the fact that all exposed instruments, used or not, must be cleaned after each patient, costing between $0.37 and $0.47 per instrument, and the amount of unnecessary cleaning increases both time and money wasted. Single-use devices cost slightly more up front, but save money and human resources by eliminating the cleaning, sorting, and restocking process. And even the best cleaning procedures come up short; a study in the American Journal of Infection Control found that 71% of “passed” medical scopes tested positive for bacterial contamination.

The Human Cost of Infection and Contamination

Over 75 million inpatient and outpatient surgical and nonsurgical procedures are performed each year. Improper cleaning of reusable instruments figures prominently in the two million healthcare-related infections (HAIs) resulting in 90,000 deaths and an additional $4.5 billion in medical expenditures, plus additional patient hardship from extended pain and suffering, longer hospital stays, emotional stress on family members, and missed work time. The cost of treating a single patient infection ranges from $50,000 to $90,000. Of particular concern are the rising number of drug-resistant infections, including MRSA, gastroenteritis from Enterobacteriaceae, and strep pneumonia. In multiple incidents dating from 2013 and 2015, Enterobacteriaceae, also known as the “nightmare bacteria” for its particularly stubborn drug resistance and deadly nature, killed 14 people and infected over 200 others at three different medical centers. In all three cases, the cause was traced back to improperly sanitized endoscopes.

The Legal Cost: When Medical Providers Must Pay

The cost of cross-contamination also comes at a price for medical providers. Hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices face medical malpractice lawsuits when patients contract infections due to substandard care. The care provider is usually the primary lawsuit target because it is difficult to prove the infection began elsewhere, the possibility of multiple lawsuits (against the hospital, doctor, medical device manufacturer and anyone else involved in the patient’s care), and the assumption of compensation capability (going after whomever has the “deepest pockets”) leads to millions in payouts to patients and loss of confidence in the medical practitioners and facility associated with the case. In the event that criminal charges are filed and a court judgment rendered against the provider(s), practitioners may face fines, jail, and permanent license suspension. Medical facilities may lose state or federal funding, national accreditation, and foundation donors.

Why Single-Use Devices Cost Less, Provide Better Patient Care

The catchy phrase “reuse, recycle, reduce” receives justly deserved attention when it comes to removing glass, paper, and plastics from our everyday lives. But reusing and recycling medical devices in an effort to reduce costs and waste costs more in time, money, and human lives than medical facilities save through reprocessing. obp’s devices provide more than patient safety in a single-use package. Every obp device comes assembled and ready to use, with its own LED light source. The LED light is fully integrated and heat-free, providing clear vision in any conditions, without the need for bulky side or overhead lighting, or even an electrical outlet. Our single-use devices pack and ship in small containers for worldwide use. Our devices are clearly marked for single use only, and standard disposal protocols apply upon use. Single-use devices are the only way to fully prevent cross-contamination infections, and ordering directly guarantees supply chain logistics. Please contact us for information, a free sample, and to learn more about the real value of single-use devices versus the price you pay for disposables.

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