Throwing out excessive costs, waste management

As hospitals continuously generate waste, time and money is also unfortunately wasted when waste management procedures are not implemented and followed properly.

Hospitals can unearth waste savings by reducing costs, disposing of waste efficiently, and most importantly reducing waste.

1. Reducing waste costs

Prices for waste vary significantly relative to the waste stream. Securing a competitive price for each stream or obtaining an ideal price for a vendor to manage the entire stream at a single cost is an important consideration.

Adding metrics to a hospital's waste stream will help manage the cost of waste. Here are a few tips:
• Compare the average price per pound of the entire waste stream to the cost per pound of each waste stream. Understand what is trending up and down.
• What impact has your green committee had on waste costs?
• What are the monthly targets for your waste?

2. Selecting the right waste stream

Hospitals throw away everything from simple paper products to biomedical products like blood. How to dispose of these items is met with numerous options: regulated medical waste, sharps, municipal, bulk, recycling, shredding (confidential waste), incineration, etc.

In the simplest of terms, waste can be categorized as general waste and hazardous waste. Hazardous waste can cost a hospital up to 10 times as much as general waste.

Too often hospitals place general waste into their hazardous waste stream, ultimately adding unnecessary weight and cost. With proper waste segregation and educating staff on proper waste procedures, hospitals can significantly reduce the volume of hazardous waste. As a result, hospitals will also avoid preventable fines.

3. Reducing waste

Beyond cost reduction and proper waste sorting, hospitals can also reduce costs by exploring additional facets of waste. Take a hospital's cafeteria for instance. The New York City Department of Sanitation estimates that a hospital with 1,000 beds could save $500,000 and reduce waste by 400,000 lbs. by utilizing reusable food service items in place of disposable ones.

Here are a few additional ideas to reduce waste in hospitals:
• Custom pack committee – Create a committee to review custom packs to determine what items are not used regularly enough to be included in these packs. This committee should also create a procedure to ensure clean supplies are not being returned with contaminated waste.
• Reprocessing – Today more and more facilities are working with vendors that can reprocess items. Even if your organization has not adopted reprocessing, you may be able to sell products that can be reprocessed and used by another organization.
• Going green – Every organization should have a green committee – this committee can create programs that will eliminate waste and introduce environmentally friendly supplies.
• Unused medical products – If a hospital's medical products are unable to be returned to the vendor and are not part of a reprocessing program, they often can be donated to agencies that give the products to third world countries.

George Malik, the CEO of Quality First Solutions, has been in the healthcare industry for the past 30 years and has saved millions for hospitals nationwide.

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