Smart Surgery

U.S. hospitals waste $15M in unused OR surgical supplies each year

17 Dec 2019

A Johns Hopkins research team revealed that hospitals across the United States waste nearly $15 million in unused surgical supplies each year. As the research team pointed out, these “perfectly good, entirely sterile and, above all, much-needed surgical supplies” could be used to reduce shortages and improve surgical care. Given that most operating rooms are trying to trim down costs at all levels, this may be worth looking into from a management perspective.

Perhaps the most shocking finding -  most of the items the investigators tracked were high-demand items such as gauze, sutures, and surgical towels. A whopping 2 million pounds of these materials were reported. So the question has to be asked, “How much are you contributing towards that total?”

One area for investigation is bundling of surgical materials. While bundling may help with efficiency, it may also be generating unused items. Looking at your bundles or kits to determine the level of waste and then making adjustments (or eliminating kits altogether for certain cases) may impact not only waste but profitability. 

Another simpler, quicker solution may be instituting a sterile, unused material drop zone within each OR. 

Moving ahead with a cost-effective solution

Besides being a significant source of revenue, operating rooms are also the main source of waste and cost, among any hospital’s departments. According to a new Cardinal Health survey of surgical staff, with a better supply chain management system and analytics, operating rooms will be able to reduce costs and support patient safety. Any cost savings in operating rooms will have a broad financial impact on hospitals. Are there any other options to help drive down this excessive loss of sterile materials? What are some tactics that your OR already has in place? We would love to hear any of your best-demonstrated practices in regards to supply waste management.  

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Written by Caresyntax

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