How the right mix of exam gloves can save money without compromising protection: 4 Qs with a Cardinal Health leader

Proper hand hygiene practices protect both patients and providers from infection, making exam gloves a highly valuable product for health systems to ensure clinician safety.

Since such a large pool of healthcare workers use exam gloves on a regular basis, expenses often add up. However, by purchasing an appropriate ratio of high-use to specialty exam gloves, health systems can save money without compromising clinician or patient safety, according to Mary Cross, RN, senior consultant of clinical operations and surgical gloves at Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health.

Here, Ms. Cross discusses how health systems can standardize their glove purchasing process to save money. She also shares what attributes to look for in a good high-use exam glove as well as the various resources available to help guide these decisions

Editor's Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Given how broadly exam gloves are used throughout the healthcare system, the expense builds up. How can hospitals keep these costs down, without compromising protection?

Mary Cross:  It's about balancing fiscal responsibility, clinician safety and clinical need. The clinicians must have a glove that will protect them and allow them to complete their job. However, to keep costs down, the financial aspect must remain top-of-mind. Standardization is key in trying to find that balance of ensuring protection, determining need and being financially responsible. To standardize, it is important to look at staff members' needs. Most require an everyday, High-Use glove. But there is also a need to have gloves for special tasks in the operating room, pharmacy or lab area. There is not just one universal glove that will meet the needs of everyone. Cardinal Health has found that the optimal ratio of High-Use to Specialty glove is about 90 percent to 10 percent, respectively. Once customers get to that 90/10 ratio, you start looking at storage space improvements and glove-usage efficiencies that save costs without compromising protection.  

Q: What attributes should hospitals look for in a good high-use glove?

MC:  Hospitals need a glove that will provide protection and comfort. It needs to give the clinician the fit, feel and comfort they want so they can perform their jobs without even thinking about the glove. In terms of attributes, hospitals should look for a nitrile glove that is similar in terms of comfort and fit to latex. It must also be durable and tactile, so it is usable throughout most of the hospital. There is one particular High-Use glove from Cardinal Health that comes to mind — the Esteem™ Comfort glove. It provides protection, is tactile and durable, and fits comfortably. This glove also has an FDA-approved low dermatitis potential claim and elongation like latex which can help reduce cuff tears during donning1. In addition, it has some chemotherapy and chemical resistance that allows the glove to be used not only as a High-Use glove, but also in some areas where a Specialty glove is needed.

Q: How can a hospital determine if they are purchasing a clinically appropriate specialty glove?

MC: There are special needs in almost every healthcare facility. For example, many places administer or compound chemotherapy drugs, including the oncology unit, the pharmacy and maybe even an outpatient clinic within the system. In this instance, when handling chemotherapy drugs, you need a glove that will help the facility comply with USP <800> standards. In addition, the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) has a very specific methodology for testing against chemo drugs, so a hospital can ensure the glove is clinically appropriate if it meets the ASTM standards. Cardinal Health also has resources available to help hospitals determine if a glove meets the various standards.

Q: What resources are available to hospitals to weigh the differences between high-use and specialty glove options?

MC: At Cardinal Health, we recently created a Clinical Application Matrix, which is a chart that compares all available glove options in our portfolio by outlining their characteristics and matching them to the various departments the glove could be used in. The matrix recommends gloves based on users' needs and helps to narrow down their choices. Additionally, the sales team at Cardinal Health is very knowledgeable and skilled at doing a glove-usage review and analysis. The team will not only review what the usage is per glove, but also analyze hospital-specific data to identify opportunities where they can standardize and improve the ratio to save costs.

1. Minimum Elongation is equal to the min ASTM standard for a latex exam glove which can help to reduce cuff tears during donning.

To learn more about the Clinical Application Matrix and additional details on Cardinal Health’s High-Use and Specialty exam gloves, click here.

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