Surgery can be fraught with risks and hidden costs to both staff and patient alike. Surgical site infections have been reported as accounting for 20-25% of all nosocomial infections worldwide. In 2010, a hospital in Wales and two north of London had to interrupt surgery schedules after discovering traces of contamination on instruments that had been out-sourced for reprocessing.

However, these risks and costs can be dramatically reduced with attention to a little TLC. This is not ‘tender loving care’ but DTR Medical’s own core belief that all surgical products should be Time-saving, Life-saving and Cost-saving.

DTR Medical ensures its own version of TLC by focusing on the design, manufacture and distribution of single-use medical instruments rather than those that can be reused.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to focus on single-use instruments over those that can be reused (surely it costs more to buy/ use something new every time?), the facts speak for themselves.

Research collected by DTR Medical’s clinical consultations shows that the costs of reprocessing reusable medical instruments vary. Some can cost as little as £1 to reprocess with their disposable equivalent also costing the same, but other can cost more. The question for clinicians, however, is why take risks with cross-contamination and potential time delays in using reusable medical instruments if there is no differentiation in price in buying and using a single-use instrument? DTR Medical have a number of cost saving case studies available that are based on selected instruments. These offer a snapshot of how cost-effective high quality single-use instruments can be in both theatre and clinic environments.

There are other less tangible costs which are not always understood, but which are very important to consider when discussing cost savings:

  • The typical cost of repair for an instrument is £50 and single-use instruments rule out this cost
  • Expensive and fine precision instruments are at greatest risk of damage, and incur the largest financial losses
  • Busy clinical units need multiple sets of instruments to cope with high patient numbers which can put pressure on the capital costs of new reusable equipment
  • Reusable instruments can put patients at risk of healthcare acquired infections (HCAIs), such as surgical site infections (SSI). For example, 200 hospital patients were once exposed to vCJD prion through surgical instruments that had once used on other patients and who who subsequently died of the illness.
  • Disposing of instruments after one use may seem like a waste of resources but when compared to the costs and energy used to reprocess reusable products, the savings are statistically clear

But cost considerations aside, patient welfare considerations (the aforementioned Life-saving) and efficiency aspects (Time-saving) of using single-use medical instruments are compelling as well.

Based on 8.6 million surgical procedures in the UK per annum, an infection rate of 4.2% and treatment costs of approximately £2,100 per infection, the total costs of surgical site infection (SSI) in the UK is estimated at £758 million per annum. Research suggests these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. The widespread adoption of single-use medical instruments in surgical and medical settings would dramatically reduce infections, which is not only good for hospital and doctors (who would not have to deal with such complications), but also for patients who would be spared the pain and inconvenience such infections can bring.

The serious issue of infection rates through reusable medical instruments is a global one. 13 women died in India in 2014 after undergoing a sterilisation procedure, due to the medical instruments being both rusty and reused. The widespread adoption of single-use instruments would prevent such tragedies from happening.

But what about the Time-saving benefits single-use instruments bring? Despite their regular use by clinical departments, the complexity of reprocessing reusable medical instruments is often underestimated.  All stages involved in purchasing, using and maintaining reusable medical instruments take considerable time and involve different people. They have to be counted and rechecked, reworking returned instruments. And what about sourcing replacements for those instruments that have been damaged? All of these processes can lead to delays in theatre lists and appointments, creating extra administration and distress to patients.

The above is just some of the many benefits that single-use medical instruments can bring patients, surgeons, doctors and medical institutions alike. For more, please download our new PDF brochure: Time Life Cost: The Savings Benefits of Single-Use