How hospitals can reduce costs through improved waste management

Excessive medical waste greatly increases the cost of healthcare for patients.

Many care facilities struggle to remain profitable, while they literally throw billions of dollars a year out with the trash.  The industry news publication Healthcare Finance News recently revealed that hospitals and care centers produce an enormous amount of waste every day, totaling 5.9 million tons of waste per year. This is roughly equivalent of 33 pounds of trash per staffed bed every day. By reducing their waste output, hospitals can help curb the rising cost of healthcare and improve the quality of care they are able to offer. 

The article argues that improved resource and waste management practices could reduce the annual cost of healthcare by up to $7 billion, or 70 percent. To  help improve the situation, many facilities have turned to "green" medical waste processing companies that emphasize environmentally responsible ordering and disposal practices. Some companies, such as HealthTrust, manage integrated waste programs for specific facilities, which provides greater oversight into all waste streams. 

"By doing this, it allows for greater efficiencies as they pertain to both sustainability and budget," Steve Tarkington, VP of HealthTrust, told Healthcare Finance News. 

Overtreatment is also another large contributor to the staggering amount of medical waster produced each year. Overtreatment refers to any practice that duplicates efforts, is unnecessary or the use of higher-priced treatment when lower cost alternatives are as readily available and similarly effective. Many caregivers are habitually ordering unnecessary tests or diagnostic procedures to guard against liability in malpractice lawsuits. A September 2010 Health Affairs study led by Harvard University estimated that in 2008, $55.6 billion was spent to avoid medical liability. 

Of course, it will be a long process to remodel the current waste systems in place, and longer still before hospitals begin to see some of the cost-saving benefit. For hospitals that are currently struggling with health insurance claims follow-up, these practices can be outsourced to Professional Medical Services, allowing staff to focus on larger accounts.