Putting Two and Two Together: How Sharps Safety Saves You Money

March 7, 2017

By: Adeline Yi, Anzen Product Manager

Throughout this series we have examined the need for the adoption of sharps safety practices and tools in the healthcare industry, as well as the consequences that result from the industry’s slow adoption. We’ve learned that sharps injuries are still prevalent today, especially in surgical settings where they have increased by 6.5 percent since the enactment of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2001. However, this figure does not include the number of injuries that go unreported each year, which is estimated to account for 50 percent of all sharps injuries.

The noticeable increase in injuries in surgical settings is a result of the industry’s slow adoption of safety scalpels, which is estimated to be less than 10 percent. Through our own research, we have discovered the lack of adoption is due to facilities’ slow implementation of new technology in general and a feeling that there have not been any acceptable safety scalpels to replace current options that are available.

In this series, we have also learned that sharps injuries – particularly scalpel injuries – have very serious consequences. Sharps injuries can have a major and negative impact on the financial, physical and mental well-being of the injured party and a financial impact on the healthcare facility.

With an estimated 1,000 sharps injuries occurring each day, U.S. hospitals experience an extra $1 billion in unnecessary annual costs. This startling figure does not include the indirect costs that are associated with sharps injuries like loss of productivity, as well as the time and resources a healthcare provider must spend evaluating, testing and treating the injured party. In addition, those who experience a sharps injury also pay a mental cost. In fact, those who are injured by a scalpel are more likely to face severe emotional and psychological effects.

In a report published by The Surgical Technologist, Ron Stoker, the founder and executive director of the International Sharps Injury Prevention Society (ISIPS), and Mark Davis, MD, a gynecologic surgeon and OR safety consultant, examine the economic argument for the use of safety scalpels. The detailed report discusses:

  • The long-standing problem of sharps injuries and those caused by scalpels
  • The financial, emotional and physical toll they take
  • Why there has not been universal adoption of safety scalpels among surgeons
  • The cost of safety scalpels compared to conventional scalpels

Interestingly, the report from Stoker and Davis found that operating room scalpel injuries indirectly increase the cost of purchased conventional blades by at least $2 per blade. With an estimated 75 million scalpel blades being used every year – assuming they are conventional – that could be an added cost of $150 million.

It is evident that sharps injuries – specifically those caused by scalpels – are extremely costly to healthcare facilities and the individuals who are injured. The implementation of safety scalpels can help to reduce the occurrence of scalpel injuries and ultimately decrease the financial cost facilities and injured parties face, as well as curtail the mental and physical toll these injuries take on those who experience them. However, implementation can only occur when there is buy-in from end-users – particularly surgeons, who feel that current safety scalpels are not up to par. That’s why we believe end-user engagement is key to the successful development of safety scalpels that provide the necessary safety features without compromising the ease of use and feel surgeons require.

Learn more about the Anzen Safety Scalpel, which we developed to address these issues, here.

Infection Control Today, 2013
The Surgical Technologist, 2015