Medical waste is a serious problem in the healthcare industry, leading to both millions of dollars in products winding up in landfills as well as billions in avoidable expenses that are often passed on to patients. It’s our responsibility as healthcare professionals to seek more eco-friendly solutions to effective patient care that don’t compromise our commitment to first do no harm.
To get started, consider adopting these 5 strategies in managing your medical practice. Remember, small actions add up when waste levels are this high.
Take An Inventory
One of the first things you need to do if you’re going to reduce medical waste is to inventory your supplies. If you don’t know what your departments already have and what they use regularly, you can’t minimize waste. Many departments experience high levels of waste simply because they don’t know what they have and medical supplies expire and have to be discarded. Carefully organizing your supplies can prevent this.
Offer Online Consultations
Many office visits can be eliminated by offering medical consultations online. What’s the ecological benefit of this? Well, when patients aren’t coming into the office you don’t have to operate as many procedure rooms, which reduces the number of tools you need and cuts your energy bills. It also eliminates small forms of waste like paper coverings for tables and disposable thermometer tips.
Variability between doctors ranging from what items they request for a surgery to how they choose to order supplies can result in a lot of medical waste. For example, when standard OR setup includes tools that aren’t used, those tools have to be thrown away. Audit medical tool use and standardize what tools are placed in the OR for a given procedure.
Switch To Biodegradables
Just like any other business, medical offices go through a lot of printer paper, ink cartridges, and other generic office supplies. Wherever possible, switch to biodegradable office supplies. Medical offices produce so much unavoidable waste due to sanitation standards that we need to make concerted efforts to reduce what winds up in the landfill wherever else possible.
Donate What You Can
More and more organizations are popping up that can help you responsibly donate unneeded medical supplies. These supplies are then funneled to developing countries with medical supply shortages as well as to low-income clinics within the US. So much of what goes into the waste within the medical industry can still be used – it just isn’t up to our hospital standards.
Recently medical waste has become a more high profile topic and as consumers become aware of the problem healthcare organizations are under pressure to make changes. Lead the way in this movement by caring for the environment the way you take care of your patients.