Savings war: The pros and cons of SUD reprocessing growth

Savings war: The pros and cons of SUD reprocessing growth

April 22, 2016
Bill Scott
From the April 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By: Bill Scott

For nearly two decades, single-use device (SUD) reprocessing has steadily gained favor among U.S. health systems looking to better control costs and reduce their environmental footprint. In fact, SUD reprocessing is projected to grow globally at a compound annual growth rate of 19.3 percent until 2020, according to a 2015 report from Transparency Market Research. This rate of growth is considerably strong, estimated to be two to three times faster than the med tech market overall. The tangible financial and environmental savings SUD reprocessing offers hospitals have helped it grow and earn a spot as one of the top health care supply chain strategies used to reduce costs and optimize resources. The increased demand has also increased competition.

Generally speaking, competition is a good thing as it keeps pricing in check, but the marketplace has seen both pros and cons due to the increased competition. While the benefits are many, the implications can be difficult for hospitals to identify, and potentially detrimental to their savings goals.

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Reprocessing growth benefits
Efforts to educate hospital staff about the value SUD reprocessing brings to their organizations have increased. Industry organizations such as Practice Greenhealth have established initiatives that support reprocessing as a means to drive more sustainable care, garnering a high volume of engagement and interest from hospital leaders. As a result, general awareness and acceptance of the practice has become more mainstream. The number of hospitals reprocessing SUDs is at an all-time high, with more than 3,000 facilities stateside, including nearly all of U.S. News & World Report’s “Honor Roll” hospitals.

Hospitals are organically growing their reprocessing savings by emphasizing collection education, adding more device types to their programs and showcasing their increased savings to upper management to gain further support. As reported in Practice Greenhealth’s 2014 Sustainability Benchmark Report, participating hospitals prevented 847 tons of device waste from entering landfills and saved $49.2 million by reprocessing. This was a 20 percent increase in waste diverted and a 58 percent increase in savings compared to the previous year. Other benefits of reprocessing growth include:

Clinician skepticism has subsided.
Historically, one of the largest barriers to establishing a reprocessing program or achieving sustained savings growth has been clinician pushback. While skeptics remain, many clinicians now better understand the strict FDA guidelines that govern the business, the science behind the intricate remanufacturing process and the industry’s strong safety record. Reprocessed SUDs are holding their own, too, being regarded as just as safe and effective as their original equipment manufacturer (OEM) counterparts. Researchers from Banner Health recently conducted a study that pits reprocessed devices head-to-head against OEM devices to increase the data available on device defect rates. The results, published in the December issue of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Journal of Medical Devices, found OEM devices were nearly five times more defective than reprocessed SUDs. Increased acceptance is helping reprocessing advocates add new devices to their programs, which is improving their overall savings.

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