The Value of Single-Use Devices in the Emergency Department

From a business standpoint, what value do disposable medical devices offer over their reusable counterparts? How much do they save? What clinical benefits do they deliver? And most importantly, what kind of ROI can hospitals expect?

In this article, we’ll use a stainless steel kidney dish to illustrate the potential cost, cross contamination and convenience benefits that a typical ED might see as a result of switching from a traditional, metal kidney dish to a plastic disposable version.


To determine the true cost of a metal kidney dish, one has to consider not only the initial cost of purchasing the device, which can run anywhere from RM10 – RM50 per unit, but also costs associated with reprocessing and maintaining the device over its lifespan.

Because devices like the speculum are used on multiple patients on any given day, they have to be sterilized after each use, and that requires extensive equipment that, depending on a hospitals sterilization policies, can cost upwards of RM1,500. Add to that the annual cost of cleaning solution and ancillary items that also need to be purchased and cared for, as well as expenses associated with training staff, inspection and recordkeeping, and the per unit cost goes up significantly.

In addition, using a metal kidney dish slows down the process of caring for patients, and that time is money that hospitals need to allocate for. For example, it takes time for staff to clean the device, put it through disinfection, inspect it for potential damage, repackage it and put back in place for the next patient—and this should happen after each and every use. In a busy department, sterilization can take upwards of two hours out of the day; in a high-volume ED, it can eat up even more time. In an industry as resource sensitive as healthcare, all that time is money down the drain.

Single-use kidney dishes come out of the package ready for use and are disposed of after a single use. They allow hospitals to eliminate many of the costs, including maintenance and reprocessing, associated with reusable devices.

While reusable kidney dishes may be the more conventional choice for some providers, single-use devices, provide the same quality without any of the upkeep, resulting in true value for your facility.

Cross Contamination

There is a growing body of evidence—and countless real-world examples—that demonstrate how so-called “disinfected” medical devices are not as clean as we think. A study from the Journal of Hospital Infection for example recently found that 86 percent of “disinfected” laryngoscope handles in hospitals still had bacteria on them post sterilization. To put that finding in perspective, in March 2010, Dallas-based Parkland Memorial Hospital was forced to notify 73 female patients that they were potentially exposed to infectious agents—including HIV and hepatitis—due to both equipment failure and the reuse of an improperly sterilized vaginal speculum. Not only did the cross-contamination scare have the potential to significantly harm to those patients, as well as their partners, but it also caused significant reputational damage to the hospital.

As these examples highlight, cleaning devices does not always mean that they are truly clean. The reality is that even when staff follow manufacturer recommendations for cleaning, contaminants can still exist deep in the equipment because cleaning protocols aren’t always sufficient, devices aren’t cleaned in a timely fashion or they simply weren’t designed with optimal cleaning in mind.

It isn’t hard to imagine that if reprocessing doesn’t get a reusable device truly clean—or if potential sources of contamination, such as handles or even plug-in light sources, are overlooked when considering potential risk factors and developing institutional decontamination protocols—devices, their components and even the seemingly benign items you see in an exam room, all can easily become vehicles for cross contamination.

By comparison, when a product is opened, used on a single patient and then thrown out, the risk of cross contamination from one patient to another drops to almost zero. So making this simple change from reusable to single-use enables organizations to minimize cross contamination, maximize infection control and focus on what’s really important: delivering high-quality care to patients.

Convenience and Care

For a patient in need of urgent evaluation or an immediate procedure, the single-use kidney dish means less time waiting. A single-use device eliminates all of the prep and post exam or procedure work and allow clinicians to deliver great care in less time.

As this article has outlined, for hospitals looking to increase resource utilization and cut costs while also reducing the risk of cross contamination and enhancing the experience for providers and patients alike, medical devices that are designed for single-use offer a high return on investment that should put them high on the list for any healthcare organizations, and for acute care environments in particular.

Ask GA2 Medical about the value of single-use products or visit our website to find out more about our range of single patient use and reusable medical devices and products.