By ReadySet Staff Writers

Question: If something is free, it costs nothing, right?

Answer: Maybe not!

When a healthcare facility uses loaned surgical equipment (‘Loaners’), which is a common practice for many orthopedic, spine and other surgeries, there is no cost to either purchase or use the equipment. However, there are many associated costs to consider. In order to effectively manage the entire surgical supply chain, these hidden costs need to be quantified and considered in any decision-making analysis.

Hidden costs of Loaners can be grouped in 3 main areas: Patient Safety, Workflow & Process Control and Staffing.

Patient safety and favorable medical outcomes are of fundamental importance to any healthcare facility. In order to ensure full compliance with infection control best practices, all equipment used in surgical procedures needs to be processed in accordance with the manufacturer guidelines. These guidelines are documented in Instructions For Use (IFU’s). While IFU’s exist for every piece of surgical equipment, including Loaners, they are not always readily available to the technicians responsible for processing the equipment. Therefore, a hidden cost of using Loaner equipment is the lack of available IFU’s for the equipment, which can increase the risk of sub-optimal sterilization. A sound Loaner protocol ensures all Loaners used in a facility have IFU’s readily accessible to the staff.

Additionally, workflow and process control issues arise when central processing staff have confusion on tray assembly guidelines. This hidden cost can be minimized if the staff has access to full set lists and images of the completed trays. If the facility also captures images of each loaner tray when it is delivered, charges for lost instrumentation can be limited as well.

Finally, Loaners can increase the cost of staffing, particularly in sterile processing departments and surgical teams. When a vendor drops off several loaner trays late or unannounced, sterile processing mangers often need to use overtime and PRN hours to process them. Additionally, it is common for surgical teams to staff roles dedicated to implant coordination—a cost that the facility bears for using vendor-owned equipment.

As you can see, using Loaners is not free! In most facilities, there is an opportunity to secure a large cost savings by analyzing these hidden costs and addressing them with appropriate Loaner Management tools, policies and procedures.