Controlling Costs with SUD Reprocessing

Updated on January 22, 2022
Bill Scott - Stryker Sustainability Solutions

By Bill Scott

Single-use device (SUD) reprocessing is one of the top healthcare supply chain strategies used to reduce costs and optimize resources, with more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals purchasing reprocessed SUDs, according to the Association of Medical Device Reprocessors (AMDR). Some hospitals see savings of more than $600,000 annually through their recycling and redistribution initiatives. However, reaching that level of savings, and working to grow it year-over-year, requires internal support and frequent monitoring to analyze areas for added growth, as well as careful evaluations of potential roadblocks to reprocessing savings.

SUD Reprocessing 101

SUD reprocessing is a highly regulated process that relies on third-party vendors to clean, test, repackage and sterilize select original equipment manufacturer (OEM) medical devices labeled as “single use.” As part of the process, each device is function-tested pursuant to FDA standards before being shipped back to the health facilities. This process and the regulatory requirements are distinctly different than in-house reprocessing, which relies on staff from the central sterile departments to clean and sterilize “reusable” devices.

How SUD reprocessing supports your cost-saving goals

The savings impact from implementing SUD reprocessing is vast and can add up quickly. The ability to achieve savings is two-fold. On one end, health systems can purchase reprocessed devices back at a significantly lower price than the cost of the original device and on the other end, it reduces costs associated with special handling and waste management of devices. 

Building your program through internal buy-in

A program’s success is closely tied to the engagement from staff at both the administrative and clinical level. It is important to educate your staff on the benefits and ease of reprocessing. Some reprocessing partners host training sessions with key leaders at the hospital to explain the intricate remanufacturing process and answer questions. This can also include facility tours to see the rigorous remanufacturing process in person and addressing possible safety concerns. In fact, sharing recent data, like the study Banner Health published in the December issue of the Journal of Medical Devices that found OEM devices were nearly five times more defective than reprocessed SUDs, can help build staff confidence in their reprocessed devices.

Once staff are educated on the benefits and high quality of SUD reprocessing, it is important to make the process easy for them to comply with. Your reprocessing partner can help evaluate the best placement for bins at your facility, as well as having clearly labeled bins and signs that show what devices can be reprocessed.

Monitor progress and opportunities for growth

To keep staff engaged it is important to provide regular updates on savings goals, waste diversion totals and major program milestones. Some reprocessing partners help track this information and can provide regular updates to your team to help staff stay committed to the process. It is also important for your reprocessing partner to know your facility’s goals and analyze your current device list to determine if you can add new devices to your program to continue to grow savings.

Potential roadblocks to reprocessing savings

The growth of your reprocessing program is contingent on your ability to reprocess the devices you purchase. This seems logical, but there can be a few hidden pitfalls along the way. It is important to evaluate the contract details of new device purchases so you don’t inadvertently jeopardize your ability to reprocess.

Some key questions to consider include:

  • Does this contract allow my facility to work with other vendors?
    Contracts that limit the vendors you work with can also limit potential savings via language that prohibits or restricts a hospital’s right to purchase third-party reprocessed SUDs.
  • Are there minimum order quantities on new devices and/or maximum order quantities on reprocessed devices?
    Some contracts have hard-to-reach new purchase requirements before reprocessed devices can be purchased and ultimately end up restricting a hospital’s ability to save.
  • Will device upgrades impact our ability to reprocess?
    Some OEMs are creating new devices with embedded microchips that can prevent or delay a third-party reprocessor from being able to reprocess the device, impeding savings.

If you’re not sure if your new device contract may impact your ability to reprocess, visit AMDR’s dedicated resource to help health systems identify and address these types of tactics.

Controlling costs, without sacrificing quality patient care is critical for a health system’s bottom line. Whether you are currently reprocessing SUDs, or looking to implement a reprocessing program, it is important to understand how staff engagement and identifying reprocessing barriers can play a role in helping your system save and continue to see savings growth year-over-year.

Bill Scott is a senior marketing director atStryker’s Sustainability Solutions, an industry leader in providing third-party medical device reprocessing and remanufacturing services.

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