Reprocessing Best Practices: Q&A With Stryker Sustainability Solutions President Brian White

Reprocessing programs offer hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers the opportunity to improve patient care and reduce costs by safely sanitizing reusable medical devices, such as certain electrophysiology and cardiovascular devices; general surgery equipment; orthopedic and arthroscopic equipment; and non-invasive devices. Here, Brian White, president of Stryker Sustainability Solutions, shares best practices healthcare organizations should follow when implementing reprocessing programs.

Brian White is president of Stryker Sustainability Solutions.Question: What are some reprocessing best practices hospitals and ASCs should follow?

Brian White: I advocate several best practices that hospitals and ASCs should follow in order to achieve optimal results from their reprocessing programs. From the onset, strategically selecting a third-party reprocessor that fits your organization's needs will help to ensure success. Choose a reprocessor that focuses on the planning, education, communication and measurement elements of your reprocessing program.

Collaborate with your reprocessor to develop a plan to maximize cost savings that can be redirected toward quality care of patients. The plan should include specific, attainable financial and environmental goals; milestones that help track progress; program promotions that demonstrate how reprocessing benefits a facility and the staff; and a growth plan to ensure continued success.

Educating staff is also important to achieving a successful reprocessing program. Without an educational component, misinformation and false assumptions may compromise your plan. Ensuring everyone has learned the facts about reprocessing and the science behind it, understands the initiative and firmly grasps the goals can make a program much more likely to succeed. Reprocessing representatives should always be able to assist with your staff's educational needs, which can range from basic literature, such as brochures and case studies, to in-service training sessions.

Another important element to maintain success is through communications, beginning with administration clearly setting policy and expectations for program participation. A facility must support and engage its staff around all core initiatives, and reprocessing is no exception. Executives can lead by example, make their commitment to the program a model for the entire hospital and help the staff to understand the connection between their efforts and the sustainability of the organization overall. This involvement from the top opens the lines of communication, encourages staff buy-in and instills a sense of program ownership amongst staff.

Finally, a reprocessing program is most successful when doctors, nurses and administration work together to attain common goals. By tracking progress, you will be able to provide incentives and celebrate milestones that keep staff engaged and excited by the growth of the program. Good measurement also helps to identify new areas for growth and to develop action plans for generating additional savings. Working with your reprocessing representative to continually examine opportunities or challenges in your reprocessing program will help expand and strengthen the initiative throughout the system.

Q: What are some of the biggest reprocessing-related challenges healthcare providers face, and how can they be avoided?

BW: The types of challenges a healthcare provider might face can vary; however, a few common challenges include integrating reprocessed devices into the supply stream, achieving staff buy-in and identifying best practices for measurement. Most of these challenges can be overcome by good collaboration between your staff and your reprocessor.

Work with your reprocessing representative to ensure reprocessed devices are fully integrated into the supply stream. This is a fairly easy process if your reprocessor provides the resources that enable supply management staff to seamlessly integrate reprocessed devices into your existing supply management system. Proper integration will also help you measure usage of reprocessed devices and further reduce supply costs.

Education and communication efforts allow facility leadership the opportunity to demonstrate the value of the program across the entire enterprise, increasing the rate of staff buy-in. As you implement a reprocessing program, exercising due diligence and holding your reprocessor accountable through guaranteed savings or program growth will help avoid issues later on. The level of program support throughout the enterprise is critical to the amount of money that the system will save.

Reprocessing programs have the potential to save a provider hundreds of thousands of dollars that can be redirected to patient care initiatives, new equipment or additional staff. Providers can avoid possible missteps by supporting the reprocessing program through staff education, goal-setting and continued progress monitoring to ensure results.  

Q: What are some new and emerging trends in reprocessing?

The ultimate trend in healthcare is finding smarter ways to utilize resources. Reprocessing is a proven way to significantly cut costs and allows hospitals to redirect those savings to patient care. According to the Association of Medical Device Reprocessors, 3,000 hospitals across the country reprocess, including most of the U.S. News & World Report "Honor Roll" hospitals. Additionally, continued pressure to reduce expenses may increase reprocessing adoption among those organizations that haven't yet implemented a program. Furthermore, those organizations that want to realize more from their existing reprocessing programs may find it necessary to broaden their efforts.

Growth of reprocessing alludes to another trend: delivering real value to customers. Companies may be shifting focus from introducing "new and improved" devices and services at higher prices to helping customers' businesses thrive by delivering quality devices at a reasonable cost. The emphasis on real value may also lead to the increased development of strategic, mutually beneficial relationships between suppliers and hospitals, where hospitals support suppliers through increased preference, and suppliers support hospitals in their efforts to reduce cost without compromising the quality of patient care.

Trends are also demand-driven. For example, there is a significant discussion happening around environmentally preferable products and services. The Practice Greenhealth Business Leadership Coalition is encouraging healthcare providers to voice their opinions to help drive change toward "greener" practices. This is an area where reprocessors like Stryker Sustainability Solutions can play a major role in enabling change. Reprocessed devices help support hospitals' sustainability goals and are an important part of any greening effort. In the future, with increasing demand for environmentally preferable products, it is likely more companies will design devices with their environmental impact as a key consideration.

More Articles on Reprocessing:

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