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DISPOSABLE VERSUS REUSABLE OXIMETER PROBES: A COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS

Joshi, G. P. MD, FFARCSI

doi: 10.1097/00000539-199802001-00038
Abstracts of Posters Presented at the International Anesthesia Research Society; 72nd Clinical and Scientific Congress; Orlando, FL; March 7-11, 1998: Anesthesia/OR Economics
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Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Mgmt; UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, USA.

Abstract S38

Introduction: The use of pulse oximetry in the perioperative period is considered a standard of care and constitute a significant portion of monitoring costs. The current healthcare environment requires cost-containment strategies including the use of reusable equipment. However, disposable oximeter probes are used more commonly than their reusable counterparts. The primary concern with the reusable probes is cross-contamination; however, equipment used noninvasively and touching only intact skin rarely, if ever, transmit disease [1]. In addition, the use of a protective sheath may prevent contamination. The other concerns include cost of cleaning and replacement for lost and damaged probes. As a part of a cost-containment strategy, we performed a cost-benefit analysis of reusable oximeter probes in comparison with disposable ones.

Methods: The average use of disposable probes over previous 5 years was recorded and the cost per year was calculated. The criteria used to evaluate reusable probes included compatibility with present equipment, initial capital costs, suitability for wide range of patients (neonates to adults), ease of cleaning, and costs of disposables (e.g., protective sheath). In addition, the costs related to replacement of probes found defective, damaged, discarded, or lost was noted. Furthermore, the revenue from trade-in of the present oximeter monitors and any probe-related problems were also noted.

Results: The average costs for disposable probes was $240,000 per year. The initial capital costs for reusable oximeter monitors were $200,000 after trade-in of the current oximeters. The damaged probes were replaced at no cost by the manufacturer. At the end of 2 years, of the 112 reusable probes purchased for the operating suite, 45 probes were lost either due to inadvertent disposal or removal to another department. Amortization over a period of 5 years revealed that the use of reusable probes would decrease equipment costs by approximately $1 million. Similar savings should be observed at other sites in the hospital (e.g., ICU, emergency room, radiology, gastroenterology).

Discussion: Although, the reusable probes are approximately 15 times more expensive than the disposable ones, they are more economical over number of uses. Significant cost savings can be achieved by utilizing reusable equipment such as oximeter probes without compromising patient care. One of the major factor in achieving cost-effectiveness of reusable equipment is their careful usage and preventing inadvertent disposal. Therefore, it is necessary to educate healthcare personnel in the use of reusable equipment.

In conclusion, reusable oximetry probes are significantly cost-beneficial and careful use and prevention of inadvertent disposal is critical in achieving cost-benefit.

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REFERENCES

1. Am J Infect Control 1986; 14: 110-29.
© 1998 International Anesthesia Research Society