Clemson University has established the first program to train engineers to recycle and reprocess medical devices. The Medical Device Recycling and Reprocessing Certificate Program offered by the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus (CUBEInC) was developed in response to the dramatic market adoption of reprocessing in recent years.
Medical device reprocessing was identified as a core component of green technology and is predicted to be one of the top 20 fastest-growing industries in the next five years.
Clemson researchers discovered a need for highly qualified and educated engineers to optimize device designs to reprocess and manage medical device reuse.
"Clemson's unique certificate program is geared towards engineers who seek to enter the medical device industry in product development or research," said Melinda Harman, assistant professor in the bioengineering department. "The internship immersion training will prepare them to design medical devices for reprocessing and to develop methods to assure patient safety in compliance with FDA regulations.
"We are partnering with local health-care facilities and leaders in the reprocessing industry to help meet the demands for this growing field," she said.
CUBEInC is located at the Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center Patewood campus.
Clemson's program is made possible, in part, thanks to contributions from the third-party reprocessors, including market leader Stryker Sustainability Solutions.
"Clemson deserves to be recognized for developing a new program that meets an important industry need," said Brian White, president of Stryker Sustainability Solutions.
"Reprocessing is one of the top financial and environmental sustainability initiatives currently employed by U.S. hospitals," he said. "We're pleased to be a part of an initiative that will result in more highly trained experts who will be focused on developing future medical devices specifically designed for reprocessing."
Reprocessing is the cleaning and sterilization of single-use medical devices by FDA-regulated, third-party reprocessors. Hospitals can buy them for half the cost of original devices, allowing them to save on supply costs and divert medical waste from landfills.
"Hospitals are among the largest contributors of waste in the country, and the medical-device reprocessing effort will help reduce environmental harm," said Harman. "This effort also reduces supply costs for health-care providers while maintaining safety and quality control."
Medical devices considered suitable for reprocessing are diverse and impact nearly all hospital departments. A few examples of reprocessed devices include electrophysiology catheters for cardiac irregularities and numerous devices used during endoscopic surgery, as well as non-invasive products such as pulse oximetry sensors and various disposable compression therapy devices.