Sustainability of Medical Devices

Zack Williamson

Zack Williamson

Zack Williamson is a co-founder and CEO of ClarkStaff.com, a remote staffing and business management consulting firm with offices and partners in the US, UK, The Philippines, New Zealand, and Australia. Zack enjoys writing about a wide range of topics from business process consulting and International manpower logistics to digital media and internet marketing. That being said, some people visit his blog to check out the occasional rant about politics, health, music, and more.

For manufacturers, decision-makers, and end users, sustainability in medical device design is becoming an increasingly significant factor. And with good reason: sustainable medical devices are not only better for the environment and more appealing to customers, but they can also provide economic benefits such as cost savings, investor appeal, improved brand, and competitive advantage.

Medical device manufacturers must address sustainability from the beginning of the design phase and take into account the full lifecycle of the device in order to gain these and other advantages.

Why do we need sustainability?

Environmental factors are only one aspect of sustainability. The concept represents a long-term goal, which is ultimately to improve the well-being of people and their environment. 

Sustainability is an issue that medical device developers and makers must address. Moving forward, manufacturers and medical designers must recognize that future profitability will be related to sustainability. 

When examining the sustainability of medical devices, many people look to the end of the lifecycle and whether the equipment is recyclable or reusable. Concerns like what will it cost and how will the disposal affect the environment afterward can be the questions present. As devices get more complex they integrate more electronic components while incorporating diverse materials. Medical device waste has become a worldwide issue.

However, addressing how to reduce carbon emissions, energy, and water use, and material waste across its full lifespan, from design and material selection to supply chain, production, and distribution, is also part of sustainability. Sustainable medical devices are more environmentally friendly and appealing to consumers, and they can bring cost savings, investor appeal, and improved brand and competitive advantage.

Things to consider

Since every piece of medical equipment is different, there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to increasing sustainability. However, there are a few fundamental components that producers should take into account. Here are six possible ways for increased device sustainability, along with some considerations for makers to think about during the design stage.

  • Material Selection
    • Replacing plastic made from petroleum with a biodegradable one can be an option or perhaps utilize fewer materials overall so that recycling the item when it’s no longer needed is simpler. Alternately, using glass or stainless steel instead of plastic is more convenient making it repairable and reusable.
  • Device Design
  • Packaging
    • Packaging materials that are recyclable or compostable can be used. It is possible to avoid using plastic or petroleum-based foam packaging elements.
  • Distribution

Partnering with a healthcare organizations

Many facilities are implementing eco-friendly methods to decrease energy consumption and reduce their carbon footprint. Some organizations are well-positioned to manage this on their own. Nevertheless, many facilities could benefit from the services of outside contractors.

Medical manufacturers are in a good position to assist these facilities in making the switch to more sustainable processes.

Conclusion

The word “sustainability” is frequently connected to preconceptions, both good and bad. Regardless of your ideological stance, every organization will eventually need to understand the importance of sustainability, brought about by the declining availability of resources and the tightening of regulations. 

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