US Hospitals Have a Waste Problem
Hospital supplies should be treated as assets, not disposables
US healthcare facilities are struggling with very basic problems in its supply rooms: Products are expiring on the shelves, recalled products are not identified and removed, unrealistic par levels cause over-buying – and the means of solving these problems is usually time-consuming, labor-intensive manual audits, an approach that is inherently inaccurate. Patient safety is in jeopardy and hospital finances are in bad shape.
At the same time, single-use devices are abundant in labs and operating rooms across hospital service lines, creating massive amounts of waste, unnecessarily increasing costs, and causing thousands of pounds of carbon emissions.
US hospitals have a waste problem.
In the OR alone, US hospitals “throw away at least $15 million a year in unused surgical supplies that could otherwise be salvaged and used to ease critical shortage and improve surgical care”, Medline writes in its recent Supply Chain Optimization journal. US hospitals in 2021 saved more than $400M by using reprocessed single-use devices, - but could reduce costs by almost $2.5B annually if all hospitals used reprocessed devices at the rate of the top 10% performing hospitals. This means that US healthcare is only leveraging 17% of the potential cost savings that can be achieved through single-use device reprocessing. US healthcare every year leave more than $2B in savings on the table.
Given the poor financial state of most US hospitals and the threat that it presents to the quality of care, these numbers seem, at best, irresponsible.
Single-use device reprocessing and reducing waste in hospital supply rooms both represent waste reduction solutions that have immediate and substantial impact. And they both address the same problem: Hospitals treat their products as disposables rather than as assets – they prefer to throw away rather than reusing, and they let expired and recalled products sit on their shelves.
Single-use device reprocessing and reducing waste in hospital supply rooms both represent waste reduction solutions that have immediate and substantial impact.
The result is higher hospital costs than necessary, but the problem is not just about hospital finances. It is about access to quality care. When a hospital wastes money on expired devices and single-use devices, they lose the capacity to provide the best care possible to as many patents as possible.
“What is needed is a mind shift to think about healthcare supplies as assets rather than disposable items,” write Cassandra Thiel, PhD, Assistant Professor at New York University School of Medicine and Daniel J. Vukelich, Esq., President of the association, Medical Device Reprocessors in Managed Healthcare Executive. “To ensure the best outcomes possible for healthcare workers and patients, we must urgently identify ways to use medical supplies more efficiently. …the time has come for hospitals to reduce and reuse what they can to create necessary resiliency and capacity in the supply chain.”
SxanPro is a Grand Rapids start-up with a patented UDI-based technology for quickly scanning supplies and identifying devices in the supply room that are expired, recalled, or can be better utilized at other locations. The technology is utilized as an app on a smartphone, and unlike extensive inventory management systems does not need expensive and time-consuming integration with other hospital IT systems. The beauty of the solution is not its complexity, but its simplicity and immediate value.
SxanPro already works with several large hospital systems in the US to scan supply rooms and provide ongoing service to recover dollars and reduce patient risk, but every hospital should really pick up this technology, which easily pays for itself in a few months. Tens of thousands of items can be scanned per day and reviewed on an intuitive analytics platform that shows not only the item, but also vital product information, such as batch and lot numbers, expiration dates, and other significant data.
In initial scans of hospital supply rooms, as many as 2% of items are expired, and a significant number of these are recalled items that should be immediately removed and refunded by the manufacturer. Hundreds of thousands of dollars can be recovered in one initial scanning sequence.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars can be recovered in one initial scanning sequence.
Reprocessing single-use devices and reducing the number of unsafe, un-usable, or unwanted devices from supply rooms are both important parts of the waste solution in US healthcare. They are examples of device stewardship – a concept that should be getting more attention as hospitals struggle with financial hardship.