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5 Ways Green Surgical Teams Save Hospitals Money

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 24, 2011

One solution is for staff to make clear bags more readily available prior to the beginning of surgery, and then replacing them with red bags just before the patient is wheeled into the operating room.

One medical center that tired this also began washing and reusing all surgical scrubs and jackets, and ended up reducing waste volume by 50% over seven years. Another hospital reduced waste by 50,000 pounds and saved $60,000 a year by switching to reusable surgical gowns.

Another hospital switched from blue wrap, used to store instruments, to hard cases and saved $26,000 a year.

2. Reprocessing of Single-Use Medical Devices

According to Makary, one in four U.S. hospitals and 2,700 ambulatory surgery centers use at least one type of reprocessed single-use device. For example, Ascent Healthcare Solutions in 2008 saved $138 million and avoided 1,950 tons of medical waste that otherwise would have had to be disposed of in landfills. While concerns remain over the safety of reusing reprocessed single-use devices, Makary says, to date, "the U.S. Government Accountability Office has found no evidence indicating that the use of reprocessed devices increases health risk."

3. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

By purchasing supplies from vendors who use environmentally friendly raw materials and products, hospitals can, for example, avoid products containing mercury and other substances that require specialized disposal. Other products include unbleached recycled paper instead of chlorine-bleached white paper, which releases dioxins into waterways. "By using 100% recycled paper hospitals can reduce manufacturing energy use by 44%, decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 37%, and cut solid waste emissions and water use by 50%."

Hospitals can also avoid products that contain latex, polyvinyl chloride, and diethylhexylphthalate.

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