There is an ongoing debate in the healthcare industry about the usage of reusable products versus disposable products. There are many dynamics to consider, but there are two practical, measurable factors that must be taken into consideration: environmental impact and cost. When it comes to laryngeal mask airways (LMAs), reusable, silicone LMAs provide significant cost and environmental savings compared with disposable LMAs.
Why Should the Healthcare Industry Consider Environmental Impact?
In short, the healthcare industry needs to consider environmental impact when it comes to decision-making because the healthcare industry is directly impacted by the need to treat health concerns that come with climate change. Furthermore, the healthcare industry is already contributing negatively to this problem. If global healthcare were a country, it would be the fifth largest carbon emitter on the planet.
One aspect of climate change prevention that the healthcare industry can assist with is examining our processes and finding ways to lessen our negative impact on the environment. When examining the environmental viability of two specific products, the best course of action is a life cycle assessment, a cradle-to-grave systematic analysis of the potential environmental impact. A comparative study on the life cycle assessments for 40 disposable LMAs and 40 uses of a single reusable LMA showed a significant difference in the environmental impact of the two products.
Reusable LMAs resulted in:
- 35% reduction of greenhouse gases
- 80% decrease in air pollutants
- 95% reduction in carcinogenic emissions
Included in The Hippocratic Oath: Modern Version is the line, “I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.” When it comes to climate change and the health of our global environment, the world is desperate for a cure, but prevention remains incredibly important as well.
How Much Will the Environmentally Sustainable Choice Cost?
Environmentally sustainable sounds expensive, but in this case, it is quantifiably more cost effective. The important thing to consider is the difference between perceived cost and total unit cost.
Reusable LMAs have manufacturer recommendations on the number of uses prior to replacement. According to the life cycle assessment of the reusable and disposable LMAs:
- The per use cost of reusable LMAs was 48% lower than disposable LMAs
- Factoring in associated cleaning costs still resulted in 20% savings
Assuming full utilization, a $200 reusable LMA costs $5 per use, plus $3 per cleaning for a unit cost of $8, excluding utility and hospital overhead costs (The unit cost of disposable LMAs is 20% higher at approximately $9.60 per unit). Comparing $200 and $9.60 seems rather lopsided at first, but when it is broken down to the fundamental basics of total unit cost, the comparison looks very different.
Reusable vs. Disposable: Is There a Clear Answer?
Yes. Saving the environment and saving money at the same time makes this question easy to answer. In order to protect our environment, hard choices and sacrifices are going to be essential. Why not start with a change that can be easily facilitated, makes a difference, and offers budget relief as well?
SourceMark Medical offers a broad selection of cost-effective anesthesia and airway management devices while representing our core values of responsibility and inspiration. If you are serious about taking the responsible step of reducing environmental impact while reducing overall cost, our line of reusable silicone LMAs is an excellent choice over other disposable options. Contact us today to request a demo or to learn more.