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How Do Hospitals Get Rid of Medical Waste?

surgical wasteBelieve it or not, medical facilities produce about 2 millions tons of hospital wastes every year. This absurd amount of waste is broken down into four types: general, hazardous, radioactive, and infectious medical wastes. While the vast majority (85%) of these hospital wastes are general and can be tossed away like trash, the other 15% need to be handled with more care, lest the dangerous garbage pose a threat to the public and to the environment.

Although 15% doesn’t sound like too much, that’s still more than half a billion pounds of dangerous waste. If it can’t be tossed out, then how do medical facilities deal with it all?

Incineration
One of the most common medical waste disposal methods used to treat chemical and surgical wastes is incineration, which is the controlled burning of medical waste in an incinerator. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, incineration is used to treat about 90% of surgical wastes. However, some states, including California, prohibit the incineration of surgical waste.

Auto-Claving
If the medical waste isn’t incinerated, then chances are that it’s autoclaved. Autoclaves are closed chambers that use both heat and pressure (and sometimes they use steam) to sterilize medical equipment. They destroy microorganisms on surgical waste, like scalpels, so that the tools can be reused, and they eliminate all the microorganisms that might have been present in medical waste before it’s put in a landfill. Essentially, autoclaving allows doctors to reuse tools, and makes garbage safe to go in landfills.

With such a massive amount of waste being generated by the healthcare industry, medical facilities need to have a way to effectively and efficiently treat and dispose of medical waste.

Incineration and autoclaving are the two most popular medical waste disposal practices around. If you have any questions about how chemical and surgical wastes are disposed, feel free to ask in the comments.

How to Safely and Properly Throw Away Old Medicines

chemical wasteHospitals and health care facilities might have their own, highly regulated, infectious medical waste disposal methods, but what about homeowners? What is the everyday individual to do with the medical hazardous waste and chemical waste they may wind up producing at home?

For decades, people were told to dump their medical and chemical wastes down the toilets, but then in 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey sampled 130 streams in 30 different states, and found that 80% of them had measurable concentrations of prescription and nonprescription drugs, steroids, and reproductive hormones. As it turned out, flushing hospital wastes and chemical wastes down the toilet was a fairly destructive practice.

Nowadays, there’s a much safer, environmentally friendly way to dispose of chemical wastes. Here’s how.

Determine If Prescriptions Are Expired.
Determining the expiration date of a drug is a fairly difficult thing to do. Although manufacturers print a “use by” date on their bottles or packages, this number does not necessarily mean it isn’t safe to take the medicine after the date has passed. However, for a patient’s safety, it’s best to toss medicines that have either reached, or almost reached, their expiration dates, as the stability of the drug cannot be guaranteed.

Mix Them With Coffee Grounds and Toss Them.
When throwing out expired, or unwanted medicines, it’s best to mix the chemical waste with old, used coffee grounds. Put grounds in a plastic, seal-able container, and mix the medicine in so that it’s not just on the bottom or on the top, but thoroughly in there. Then, close and seal the container, and throw it away.

Bring Them to a Drop Off Site.
There are also drop off sites patients can use to dispose of their old, expired medicines, too. Typically, police stations and pharmacies have such drop off sites, and if they don’t, they’ll be able to let you know where you can find one.

The medical and chemical waste disposal service industry is worth $5 billion for a reason. Hospitals and patients generate an exorbitant amount of medical waste every day, after all. One ebola patient, for example, will generate eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste in a single day. Yet, it’s also not a perfect industry — about 16 billion injections are administered worldwide every year, but not all of the needles and syringes are properly disposed of afterwards, for example — which is all the more reason you need to be careful about how you dispose of medical and chemical waste at home.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Top Ways Businesses Save Money When They Go Green

Every business, including medical practices and healthcare facilities, should ultimately be investing in the quest to go green. The reason isn’t just that they’ll reduce their energy consumption and their carbon footprint. It’s also financial. Going green, including as a medical practice, is going to save money and in some instances even help you earn more money.

Unfortunately, there are still quite a few companies and medical offices and facilities that aren’t really making the effort to be more eco-friendly, and they’re missing out on savings opportunities as a result.

Below are some ways going green, particularly as a medical office, can save or make you money.

Less Money Spent on Supplies

As a medical practice, think about all the money that’s spent on paper products, printing cartridges, and other basic office supplies. The costs can add up incredibly quickly, but one solution to become greener and eliminate these unnecessary costs is to move to electronic records management as much as is possible.

This has the added benefit of not only reducing your consumption and saving money, but it can also tend to be a more accurate way to manage patient information.

Avoiding Fines

In some instances, if you’re not doing your part to dispose of your medical waste properly and follow OSHA regulations, you may face fines.

If you partner with a company like MedAssure, then you have the benefit of not only reducing your costs by at least 15%, but you’re also receiving OSHA training services and your waste management plan will exceed regulatory standards. This is good for the environment and can save your medical practice money in a number of ways.

Lower Utility Costs

For many businesses and healthcare offices, particularly larger ones, one of the most significant monthly costs they incur comes in the form of their energy bill. There are easy ways you can make changes in this area, from changing the type of lightbulbs you use, to keeping lights off in exam rooms that are unused.

In some parts of the U.S., businesses can even contact their utility provider and purchase green power derived from renewable sources. To find ways your business can lower energy consumption, to an audit, and you’re likely to discover that even small things like sealing cracks can save big money.

Tax Credits

No business owner enjoys paying taxes, and while they’re unavoidable, they can be lowered if you participate in certain eco-friendly programs or make outlined changes to your business. Do your research and find out what may be available to you.

Attracting New Patients and Clients

As a final note, we mentioned at the start of this post the fact that going green can not only help you save money but can even help you make money. If you’re a business, including a medical practice, you can use your dedication to being more eco-friendly as part of your marketing.

It can be an excellent way to attract new patients and show them you do things differently than your competitors.

6 Tips to Keep Healthy This Winter

While we’ve seen mild temperatures up until now, which have largely kept the flu in check, most health professionals and care providers expect infections will increase in the coming weeks. In many instances flu season doesn’t peak until February and in some rare cases even March.

Here are 7 ways to keep them healthy this winter:

  1. Consider a Flu Vaccine

Whether you’re looking out for a student or are one yourself, the CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccination as one of the most effective ways to safeguard against the virus. Flu vaccines are relatively inexpensive and are offered at drug stores, physicians’ offices and other healthcare centers.

  1. Harness the Power of a Healthy Diet

A good diet rich in vitamins and nutrients can go a long way in protecting students against a variety of illnesses. Encourage students to eat a healthy breakfast and lunch each day that includes things like oatmeal, fresh fruit and vegetables.

  1. Equip Your Student with Hand Sanitizer

Regularly using hand sanitizer can go a long way in protecting against a variety of germs and viruses. Give a bottle to students to keep in their backpack, cubby or locker and teach them when and how to use it, including after using the restroom and before eating.

  1. Reiterate the Importance of Not Sharing Food

Students of all ages tend to find themselves in situations where they’re sharing food with friends. From elementary aged kids sharing items in the cafeteria to college roommates sharing a slice of pizza, it’s important to let them know the health risks this can pose, not only during cold and flu season but throughout the year.

  1. Encourage Plenty of Rest

Much like eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest is one of the best things anyone can do for their health, yet research shows the average amount of sleep teenagers get each night is between 7 and 7 ½ hours, while they require about 9 ½ hours. Encourage students to get more rest each night and they’re likely to not only remain healthier but also perform better in school.

  1. Don’t Stop Exercising

Many people reduce their levels of exercise at the time they need it most. Cold and flu season may mean there’s a chill in the air, but it’s important to remain physically active. Encourage students to get plenty of exercises even if it’s not outdoors.

With a few of these practical tips, you can help combat the potential for illness this winter and remain on-track to healthy and happy winter.

Guide To Disposing Medical Waste at Home

infectious medical wasteInfectious medical wastes are pretty dangerous, and if not disposed of properly, can pose a serious health risk to health care practitioners, hospital patients, waste management employees, the environment, and even the general public. It’s why hospitals use different regulated medical waste disposal methods, such as incineration or autoclaving.

But what do you do with infectious medical wastes when you’re at home? Are you supposed to burn them? Hire a hospital wastes treatment service to take care of it? Can you just throw them away?

While infectious medical wastes do need to be treated differently than general wastes, it’s fairy easy to correctly dispose of them at home. Here’s how.

Cap Sharps Before Tossing Them.

Every year, about 16 billion injections are administered worldwide. Yet, not all of the needles and syringes are properly disposed of afterwards. If you need to administer injections at home, you cannot just throw the needles — the infectious medical wastes — away. The Environmental Protection Agency advises self-injectors to toss their needles at supervised collection sites, use mail-back programs, participate in syringe exchange programs, or invest in at-home needle destruction devices.

Don’t Just Toss Old Medicines in the Trash.

Expired and/or unwanted medicines cannot just be thrown away, nor flushed unless the label says they can. The EPA instead suggests mixing unwanted or expired medicines — including over-the-counter drugs — in used coffee grounds, which should then be placed in airtight containers. Only then are they ready to be tossed.

Get Rid of Used Tissues.

Although this should be common sense, it is still important to note. Used tissues spread diseases, and should not be left around. Although most people who are sick are also fatigued and could care less about throwing things away, used tissues still need to be tossed, and tossed quickly. Otherwise, the sickness will spread.

If infectious medical wastes weren’t disposed of properly, everyone would be at risk. It’s why hospital waste treatment services make up a $5 billion industry, and why you need to take care of infectious medical waste properly when you’re at home.

If you have any questions infectious medical waste, let us know in the comments.

The Most Common OSHA Violations in the Healthcare Industry

According to a news release posted on EHSToday.com, OSHA is really ramping up how much it charges businesses in violation of their standards.

The agency recently raised fines for the first time since 1990, with the fine jumping from $70,000 to $124,709 for a single willful or repeat violation. The fine for a serious or other-than-serious violation can range from $7,000 to $12,471.

Michael Rubin, a partner at Goldberg Segalla LLP also says there’s something else that goes along with these hefty fines, which he calls “the shame game.”

According to Rubin, this means OSHA will also create press releases and make efforts to shame businesses that have violations.

That makes it m ore important than ever for healthcare-related businesses to be proactive in avoiding these fines and consequences.

Below are some of the most common OSHA violations seen in the healthcare industry.

Lack of Training Under the BBP Standard
The BBP Standard refers to the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, and it is amended based on the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000. This standard describes how workers should be protected and protect themselves against the health hazards of bloodborne pathogens.

Some of the areas it covers include control plans, personal protective equipment, housekeeping, hazard communication and training, and recordkeeping.

Part of complying with this frequently cited regulation includes how regulated waste is removed.

Many of the top citations revolve around the BBP standard, including not just failure to train but also a failure to implement and maintain control plans, and failure to keep training records and a Sharps Injury Log.

Failing to Provide Material Safety Data Sheets
OSHA requires safety data sheets, and they are designed to provide information identifying materials as well as their potential hazards. Data sheets should also include composition and details on ingredients, as well as first-aid measures if someone has been exposed to something listed on the sheet.

Other details on required data sheets include how to respond to an accidental release, how they should be handled and stored, proper exposure controls and personal protection, and more, such as how they should be disposed of.

Not Training Employees On the Hazard Communication Standard
The final citation that’s frequently given to medical facilities including not only hospitals but also smaller doctor’s offices and clinics involves not training employees on the Hazard Communication Standard.

In order to remain compliant, healthcare businesses are meant to train their employees on the HaCom/GHS Standard and write their Hazard Communication Program for their facility.

Part of this also includes the creation and maintenance of Safety Data Sheets.

For healthcare businesses and facilities that are concerned about the rigorous OSHA standards and the potential to receive a citation, working with MedAssure can help make sure you remain compliant.

MedAssure delivers OSHA and other training services and also helps healthcare facilities exceed regulatory standards. It’s important for healthcare businesses to stay proactive as they put in place means to avoid OSHA citations.

Who’s REALLY Servicing Your Facility’s Medical Waste? You’ll Be Surprised To Find Out

Did you know that many healthcare facilities make use of regulated medical waste disposal services that cannot necessarily be trusted to maintain the high quality of service needed to deliver maximum safety?

Unbeknownst to hospitals and other facilities, these “medical waste disposal” companies will actually outsource most, if not all, of the work associated with the disposal job.

This means you can never be precisely sure who will be fulfilling the pick-ups and treatment, and in addition, you are probably overpaying to surgical wastecover the costs of the middle-man.

This can potentially lead to oversights or other problems that your own organization might be held accountable for down the line.

Why should you take on that level of risk?

Rest Assured With Medassure

MedAssure uses a completely different business model. We handle the entire process, from the initial collection of the medical waste all the way through to the final disposal in one of our own treatment facilities.

Because we maintain a complete in-house workforce, you can rest assured that every step is taken according to the highest standards of the industry and you are receiving significant savings in costs compared to other companies.

Medical waste represents a significant health hazard and improper disposal can result in massive liability.

Contact MedAssure today if you want to be assured that all of your medical waste has been taken care of appropriately.

How to Properly Take Care of Medical Waste at Home

Believe it or not, there are about 2 million tons of medical wastes produced every year, 20% of which is considered to be infectious, toxic, or even radioactive. This means that every year, 800 million pounds of dangerous biohazard wastes are produced.

Though each health care facility has a medical waste treatment company helping it dispose of these hazardous materials, not every single piece of dangerous waste gets taken care of properly.

In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that in the year 2000 alone, syringes that hadn’t been properly disposed of wound up causing 21 million hepatitis B virus infections, 2 million hepatitis C virus infections, and 260,000 HIV infections around the world.

The saddest part is that medical waste removal isn’t hard to do properly. You just need to know how to do it.

If you have to dispose of medical materials at home, here are a few tips on the treatment of medical waste to help you take care of things properly.

How to Get Rid of Sharps
If you need to dispose of needles, syringes, lancets, or other sharp medical waste, you need to put them in a puncture-proof plastic container.

The proper treatment of medical waste such as this then calls for you to tape the lid closed, and store it away from children. When ready to be tossed, the whole container should be put in with the other trash.

How to Get Rid of Contaminated Materials
The proper treatment of medical waste like soiled or bloody gauze, gloves, and bandages requires the patient to put the materials in a sealed bag, and put it in a trashcan with a tight lid to avoid attracting animals.

How to Get Rid of Medicationstreatment of medical waste
In order to handle the proper treatment of medical waste like expired, unused, or unwanted medicines, the patient must first take them out of their containers, and mix them with either kitty litter or old coffee grounds. Then, it should all be put into a sealed bag and placed in regular trash.

Though most people think the treatment of medical wastes like these would be to flush them, the Food and Drug Administration advises against it.

In order to prevent accidents, patients need to properly dispose of their medical wastes. If you have any questions about the proper treatment of medical wastes, feel free to ask in the comments.

4 Things To Know About Mail-Back Sharps Services

When you’re a business or healthcare organization, and you’re charged with dealing with any type of sharps medical waste, it can be a challenge to determine which course of action is best for you. You want a system that’s not only efficient in terms of time, but is also low-cost and yet will still provide you with the services you need.

It’s not only important that you consider how you’ll dispose of sharps from the perspective of your business or facility, but also that you constantly keep regulations in mind.

One of the number one ways many organizations deal with sharps is through a mail-back program, but what should you know? How do you know if this approach is right for your needs and the regulatory environment surrounding your organization?

Below are some things to know when you’re considering a mail-back service for handling your sharps.

Where Are You Located?
One of the key considerations to keep in mind if you’re trying to decide between a mail-back program and some other method of sharps disposal is your location. Are you located somewhere that’s rural?

If so, medical waste management and disposal companies might not serve your area, or it might be incredibly expensive.

In this case, a mail-back program can be ideal because you’re going to be saving money while remaining compliant.

Simplicity
An advantage of using a mail-back program can come into play if your organization or medical facility has a limited number of staff, or you simply don’t have the resources available to dedicated to training staff on more complex means of disposing of sharps.

With a mail-back program, you receive everything you need in one kit that’s designed to be safe and compliant, and all employees need to do is put the designated container into the package, fill out a basic form and it’s ready to be put in the mail.

For the most part, you don’t have to train your staff on the use of these programs because one like Sharps Assure is designed to compliant at all levels, which includes Federal and State, as well as with the United States Post Office.

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Non-Medical Facilities
Just because you’re not a healthcare-based business doesn’t mean you may not require a sharps program.

Many larger companies and corporations are implementing sharps disposal programs, designed to help employees with diabetes and other health concerns that could require the use of needles.

In this instance, a mail-back program would be an ideal option because there would likely be no other medical waste produced by these businesses so that a larger disposal program wouldn’t be needed.

Home Use
If you’re neither a business or healthcare organization, and you use sharps in your home, you can also use a mail-back program. You’re obviously not going to arrange for full-scale medical waste pickup, but having these programs in place at your home will make sure your family remains safe, as well as the environment.

This is a simple, nearly effortless way to deal with sharps.

Five Easy Ways to Reduce Medical Waste at Your Facility

Better medical waste disposal policies lead to better medical waste management – and that means better revenues for the facility.   Minimize medical waste at your facility with these five easy steps.  

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1) Sanitize whenever possible.

Rather than instinctively dumping every contaminated item into a red container, sanitize whatever you can.  Soiled pillowcases, ratty towels, fraying sheets – none of these need to be disposed of as medical waste.

Virtually all types of linen can be sanitized in the laundry and then reused or disposed of as regular solid waste, slashing medical waste output significantly.

2) Limit access to red bags.

Don’t give patients or visitors the opportunity to carelessly dump pizza boxes and soda cans into regulated medical waste containers.

Keep red bags out of patients’ rooms and visiting areas, ensuring that only authorized personnel dispose of honest-to-goodness medical waste in medical waste containers.

3) Train your staff.

Make sure that the policies and waste management practices within the facility are refined to the point where you’re not disposing of materials that should technically be classified as ordinary solid waste.

Call in your medical waste contractor and conduct an in-service for all facility staff members.  You’ll be amazed at the difference in medical waste output following a rudimentary review of waste disposal basics.

4) …And keep on training.

Training is great, but you can’t only do it once.  New personnel need new training; experienced personnel need ongoing reminders to keep them from falling back into old habits.

Reinforcement is something that has to be constant.

5) Strive for corporate oversight – and not a corporate oversight.

There’s no regulatory requirement to audit medical waste disposal thresholds, and few corporate managers ever bother to do so.  When asked to give an estimate as to how much medical waste a facility generates, most executives will go searching for invoices from their off-site contractors.

Higher level management usually has no idea how much waste disposal the facility actually generates, and relies on the medical waste disposal company’s bill to determine how much medical waste the facility is generating.

A little bit of facts-on-the-ground investigation may turn up a far more accurate picture of the facility’s medical waste management outlook – and result in many more suggestions for making that outlook look more promising.

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