Five years ago, medical-device maker Ethicon acquired Sterilmed, a company that reprocesses and remanufactures medical devices. The combination helped Ethicon executives recognize the cost-efficiency and environmental benefits that could come from better reprocessing services and more collaboration with healthcare providers.
So Ethicon signed a long-term agreement in September with Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, which is well-known in the industry for innovative supply chain practices. Intermountain is working with Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, to improve sustainability in a circular approach. Each is assessing the other's processes to find opportunities for improvement.
Reprocessed devices generally cost between 40% and 50% less than new products, according to Kathy Werner, a director with FTI Consulting. The firm encourages hospitals to reprocess any device that can be guaranteed to match the quality of a new product, but that's not happening everywhere. “We don't have them all reprocessing as much as we'd like them to be,” said Werner, who has a background in nursing.
Through the Ethicon partnership, Intermountain has learned how technicians can improve device cleaning to ensure they're in good condition when being sent out to be reprocessed.
Ethicon, meanwhile, is learning how to better design and manufacture devices to prolong their use and allow for more efficient reprocessing by Sterilmed. Both companies are also looking to improve sustainability in packaging.
Ethicon says it now has similar partnerships with more than 20 hospitals and health systems.