Embracing Change – Introducing Better Safety Scalpels to Facilities

December 27, 2016

By: Patrick Yi, CEO of MediPurpose

Consumer insight has been an invaluable tool as our team continues to test and improve the Anzen safety scalpel. In order to create an effective safety instrument, we must understand our end users’ preferences regarding safety sharps and recognize which features they find most valuable in a scalpel. To increase the widespread adoption of our product, end users must be comfortable using the safety scalpel and it must be made readily available in their facilities.

Widespread adoption of safety scalpels is difficult to achieve if facilities are not on board. In a recent article from Health Purchasing News on the subject of sharps injury prevention, the Executive Director of the International Sharps Injury Prevention Society (ISIPS), Ron Stoker, shared ISIPS’ mission “Zero Needlesticks — the Only Acceptable Goal” which aims to reduce the number of accidental NSI and other sharps injuries by promoting greater adoption and proper use of safety-engineered products and services. Stoker also said that he does not believe all healthcare providers are totally compliant with the requirements of the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard and noted that one estimate puts only 5% to 15% conversion to safety scalpels, leading to unimproved scalpel-injury rates.

Last month, our team exhibited at the American College of Surgeons’ (ACS) Clinical Congress in Washington, DC. During the conference, we engaged surgeons in order to understand trends, attitudes and best practices impacting scalpel safety, performance and adoption. Booth attendees were asked to complete a survey regarding their overall thoughts on safety scalpels.

Overall, we found that while adoption of safety scalpels is slow, it is apparent that the majority of surgeons are willing to try a safety scalpel, as long as it has similar characteristics to a traditional scalpel.

The following are highlights of our findings regarding thoughts on safety scalpels:

  • 65% of respondents stated that their facility does not use safety scalpels
  • Respondents revealed a number of reasons why safety scalpels are not being used in their facility. The top two responses were:
    • Facility is generally slow to adopt new technology
    • Facility has not found acceptable safety scalpel brand/model
  • 76% of respondents would use safety scalpels if they were offered at their facility
  • A variety of responses were offered when asked why a respondent would not use a safety scalpel. These responses included:
    • If the scalpel did not significantly improve OR safety
    • If it was inconvenient to expose/ retract the blade
    • Safety components obstructed the line of sight


The CDC estimates that 62% to 88% of sharps injuries can be prevented simply by using safer medical devices. However, facility managers are not providing their medical staff with surgical scalpels in order to increase adoption and decrease sharps injuries. 65% of respondents revealed that their facility does not use safety scalpels. This number is consistent with the last survey we conducted at ASCA, which took place in May of 2016.  The ASCA survey revealed that 61% of respondents stated that their facility does not use safety scalpels. Slow adoption of safety scalpels is to be expected when end users are not given access to the proper tools. The lack of safety scalpels in facilities can put employees at risk of sharps injuries as well as contracting serious diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis from blood-borne pathogens that are transmitted through these injuries.

The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was signed into law in 2001 to reduce the occurrence of sharps injuries and exposure to blood-borne pathogens. The act mandated employers to “identify, evaluate and implement” safer medical devices, including devices used in the care of patients during surgery. Despite the legislation, the ACS reported in 2010 that the use of safety scalpels in ORs in the United States has been estimated to be less than 10%.

In a recently revised statement on sharps safety, the ACS recommends the use of engineered sharps injury prevention (ESIP) devices as an adjunctive safety measure to reduce sharps injuries during surgeries. As such, hospitals and other medical facilities should ensure that they are using the safest surgical accessories and tools available, including safety scalpels, safety lancets, blunt tip suture needles, and others.

Feedback thus far is clear: end users are interested in adopting safety scalpels. The industry challenge is to introduce better safety scalpels into their facilities.