A medical or dental group managing medical waste across several locations has a variety of staff involved in that process. Multiple stakeholders can lead to competing agendas that can impact the decisions being made for the business overall.
This severely fragmented task involves various medical staff at the site level and at the group’s headquarters. Depending on the remoteness of a location, or the inherent issue of volume fluctuations across multiple locations, frustrating and costly problems can arise.
The main processes requiring management include collection, storage, regulatory, scheduling, and ordering supplies. Typically, the following roles look after the specific processes:
Collection - Nursing, Clinical, Janitorial/Maintenance
Storage - Nursing, Clinical, Janitorial/Maintenance
Regulatory - Administrators/Legal, Compliance/Risk Officers, Clinical
Scheduling - Nursing, Administration, Purchasing, Janitorial/Maintenance
Ordering Supplies - Purchasing/Supply Chain, Janitorial/Maintenance
So where do issues arise?
The physical collection of the waste generated at a given location can be troublesome to move around when unexpected volumes accumulate before a medical waste pick-up. Collection can impact nurses, doctors, and local maintenance staff.
There is also the issue of staff haphazardly sorting regular trash vs. medical waste into medical waste containers. Medical waste is far more expensive to dispose of than regular trash and this issue puts a financial strain on medical groups. Training and holding staff accountable can help alleviate this, however, alternatives that can avoid this altogether can save a medical group thousands of dollars a year.
A lot of small dental and medical practices lack office space. Medical waste storage regulations vary state to state, however, most states require you to store waste in a locked container away from the general public. Depending on how much waste is being stored until a medical waste pick-up, this can be problematic. Where does one put all the waste if you are short on space?
In some cases, a location may be required to store medical waste in a freezer until a scheduled pick up. Freezers require thawing and cleaning every few months, which adds to on-site staff workloads.
Some facilities may be allowed to store medical waste in an outside cabinet behind a locked fence, rather than a freezer. Unfortunately, the option, while solving on a space issue, can leave facilities open to liability. There are instances when such outside storage has been broken into by people targeting the needles or any potential discarded medications. There have also been problems with needle users dropping their "needle trash" near these areas, which again leads to liability issues for a facility.
There can be an "ick" factor as well when a facility is overrun with more than expected medical waste. Staff, doctors, and even patients can be subjected to smells that build up. This is a good example of contrasting agendas - Obviously, a smell issue does not directly impact a purchaser at headquarters, who is highly motivated by cost concerns when selecting medical waste disposal solutions.
A medical group’s headquarters is concerned with staying compliant with required paperwork, particularly after the first fine or two come through. A first-time OSHA fine, for example, can run up to $13K, with repeat violations heading as high as $30K. Repeat violations can also earn a designation on a facility of willful neglect/negligence, which can threaten medical and business licenses.
But until that first fine comes in, how careful is management in ensuring each and every location is compliant? Nursing groups, for example, typically have 40 locations to manage. For each and every site, there are Exposure Control Plans to establish, OSHA training to organize, Department of Transport paperwork required for waste trucked away, and other state and local regulations to be aware of. Overwhelming to say the least.
There are ebbs and flows to how often medical waste pick-ups are required for a given location. This can lead to times when a last minute schedule is required as waste is overflowing and seriously failing compliance. Such instances can be annoying for on-site staff dealing with any excess. Conversely, there are times when there is simply nothing to pick up but the contracted pick up is already booked. Annoying for purchasing and administration who are tasked with saving money.
This comes down to inefficiency. There is no alignment with volume as the volume is all over the place, particularly with multiple locations. If you are under serviced that month, whoever manages scheduling has to call for more pick-ups - and uncontracted pick-ups usually cost significantly more. If a location is over serviced, the business is paying for what they are not even using.
Keeping up with supplies (red bags and sharps containers) can prove challenging across multiple facilities - and across potentially multiple third party pick-up vendors. Simplifying this process through a single vendor and automation would ensure local staff do not run out of important (and required) medical waste bags and containers. And depending on the solution, simplifying the process could make invoicing more predictable for upper management.
What other options are there?
An on-premise option for treating and disposing of medical waste is a solution that solves for all of the above issues, to include:
- Simplifying collection
- Eliminating storage requirements
- Automating compliance reporting
- Automating order replenishment
- Alleviating multiple vendor issues - one solution across unlimited locations
- Giving budget predictability
- Saving money across all locations
We are dedicated to reducing the cost and risk of medical waste processing and disposal. Our on-premise desktop-sized processing unit converts medical waste into sterile garbage that can be placed in a practice’s regular trash.
Our solution is a greener, cheaper, and safer option for handling medical waste disposal than typical third-party hauler services.
To learn more, see below and request a free consultation.