Single-use supplies are used one time, for one procedure, for one patient. They are not designed to be sterilized and used again. Single-use supplies go to the landfill (in bioprotective packaging) after their one-time use.
Disposable, single-use surgical equipment has several advantages over reusable ones. Here are some of the advantages:
But disposable surgical equipment can pose certain disadvantages.
Disposable surgical equipment creates a larger environmental footprint. There are environmental costs attached to the manufacture of each piece of equipment, as well as its packaging and shipping. Even after considering overhead costs, single-use equipment may be more expensive than reusable supplies. However, see our notes on insurance, below.
Reusable supplies may be used in multiple procedures on multiple patients. They must be sterilized with heat and caustic agents, but, if they can be sharpened between uses, they retain a useful blade.
There are some glaring drawbacks of reusable medical supplies.
The packaging a reusable instrument comes in has a tremendous effect on its viability in long-term use. Knowledgeable manufacturers can provide containers that essentially eliminate deterioration during storage. But blades need to be inspected for sharpness before each reuse.
There are also significant differences in reimbursement for single-use and reusable surgical tools.
Certain single-use surgical supplies, such as trocar tray kits, may be separately reimbursed by the patient's health insurance. Reimbursement rules may differ state by state and for each insurance company, but they are usually posted online.
Since 2020, Medicare has established pass-through codes for the cost of single-use surgical equipment, such as trocars required for a variety of outpatient surgical procedures. The pass-through cost is based on the invoice cost of the surgical equipment. Medicare does not pay for single-use equipment, of course, unless it also pays for the procedure in which it is used.
These provisions were set to expire before 2024, although Congress may extend them.
Reusable medical supplies are considered durable goods. They are not separately reimbursed by private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. However, your office will consider equipment costs and costs of sterilization and storage in setting your fee for the procedure in which you use them.
Only single-use surgical equipment is appropriate for use with patients who have communicable bloodborne diseases. Reusable equipment must be stored with inventory control numbers so it can be removed from use if it is found to be associated with infections that appear after the procedure. Physicians also need to establish protocols for handling reusable instruments during sterilization and restorage.
Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid reimbursement policies can be the deciding factor in choosing between reusable equipment and equipment for one-time use. Reusable equipment is never reimbursed by the patient's health insurance coverage. Single-use equipment sometimes is reimbursed.
Assistants spend 5 to 10 minutes sending used instruments through sterilization, 8 to 15 minutes allowing instruments to dry, and 2 or 3 minutes to note inventory control numbers in patient records and on instrument containers. Half an hour of your assistant's time can cost more than the instrument they sterilize. However, when you have a light patient load, using your assistant's time in this way can make sense. Never put instruments from multiple patients into the autoclave at the same time. You want to avoid cross-contamination, especially if there is any possibility of contamination that cannot be removed by cleaning with steam and bleach.
Last-mile shipping of small packages is a huge burden on the environment. There is no doubt that multiple-use instruments are more "green," but the environmental costs of one sick patient easily exceed the environmental burden of shipping thousands of surgical instruments.
Every physician has slightly different circumstances. Patient load, availability of surgical assistants, and scheduling constraints may mean that the best choice is to stock both single-use and multiple-use surgical instruments to be used as circumstances dictate.
The best choice in medical supplies always depends on your unique circumstances. But Trocar Supplies can help you make the best choice for your profits and for your patients.Trocar Supplies is your one-stop shop for disposable trocars, autoclavable trocars, and trocar tray kits. Send us your questions online or call us at (937) 478-0469 for more information.