Healthcare waste has far-reaching implications. From the operational to the clinical, waste not only impacts the environment but also contributes significantly to rising healthcare costs. When seeking solutions to mitigate these challenges, utilizing labels is one effective option. Labels offer a sustainable approach to reducing waste, streamlining operations, improving patient care and enabling waste management in healthcare.

Understanding Healthcare Waste

According to an article by Luca Boi, at the University of Utah, almost every healthcare process consists of wastes like ineffective motions, procedural errors, communication errors, and more. The existence of waste leads to inconsistencies in care, unreliable service delivery and disruptions within the healthcare system. Ultimately, this waste contributes to increased costs, errors, and reduced worker motivation.

7 Types of Healthcare Waste

There are 7 types of waste that challenge nearly all healthcare organizations:

1) Waste of Transportation

This waste occurs when there is unnecessary movement of patients, materials, or specimens within the healthcare system. It can lead to inefficiencies, delays, and increased risk of errors.

2) Waste of Inventory

This waste results from poor inventory management. Materials that are out of stock or ones that can’t be used because they are outdated are two common outcomes. These inventory disruptions can delay care, waste materials and increase costs.

3) Waste of Motion

Wasteful motions require the healthcare staff to make excessive movements to provide services or retrieve equipment usually because of poor processes and inadequate layouts or designs.

4) Waste of Waiting

When patients have to wait for various aspects of their care, such as diagnosis, admission, or discharge, it results in waiting waste. Prolonged wait times can negatively impact patient satisfaction, clinical staff productivity and overall system effectiveness.

5) Waste of Overproduction

This waste involves doing more than what is necessary to treat a patient, such as ordering excessive pathological or radiological tests, unnecessary follow-ups, or administering unnecessary treatments. It can lead to increased costs and potential harm to patients.

6) Waste of Over-Processing

Filling out the same information multiple times, repeating a test because patient information became detached from the specimen, or any repetition of processes are examples of overprocessing waste.

7) Waste of Defects

Defect waste includes issues such as readmission, equipment errors and procedural errors. These errors can result in patient harm, increased costs and a decrease in overall care quality. Ultimately, these 7 forms of waste are both operational and clinical. Identifying the waste challenges in your operation allows you to formulate improvement measures that not only elevate the delivery of healthcare services but also reduce costs.

The Role of Labels in Healthcare

Let's delve into the pivotal role that labels play in healthcare, where they serve as a vital tool in minimizing both operational and clinical waste. For example, labels enable:

  • Patient identification - Admission labels and wristbands set the stage for patient identification safety in hospitals. They help the medical staff verify that treatments or procedures are specifically intended for a particular patient, thereby ensuring the delivery of appropriate and accurate patient care.
  • Medication safety: Accurate and clear medication labeling guides proper dispensing, reduces costs that come from wasted medications and is vital to prevent dosage errors that impact patient care. When working with hazardous drugs, they alert workers about potential harm and guide proper handling.
  • Caregiver communication - Timely and effective caregiver-patient communications can increase patient satisfaction, enhance patient adherence to medication and treatment regimes, reduce medical errors and improve clinical outcomes.
  • Inventory tracking - from medical devices, medications and vaccines to basic supplies, inventory labels help healthcare facilities track inventory, reduce the likelihood of over-ordering and minimize operational waste.
  • Medical equipment - biomedical engineering labels help health systems track and communicate important safety, maintenance, calibration and inspection information.
  • Recycling - the inability to keep recyclable materials segregated properly is one reason recycling programs fail. Recycling labels and signage promote and guide the proper disposal of materials.

How Labels Reduce Operational Waste

Broadly speaking, operational waste includes inefficient processes and the unnecessary utilization of resources while producing and delivering services. Operational waste includes:

  • Ineffective processes
  • Errors
  • Redundant services
  • Use of excessively costly resources

In fact, utilizing labels reduces operational waste in a variety of ways.

  • Improve Processes: Labels provide clear and standardized identification of items, equipment or patient records. This helps healthcare staff quickly locate what they need, reducing time wasted searching for items and minimizing the risk of misplacement or loss.
  • Enhanced Communication: Labels convey critical information at a glance, such as patient names, allergies, medication instructions, and equipment usage guidelines. This facilitates effective communication, reducing the likelihood of errors and redundant services.
  • Error Reduction: Precise labeling reduces dosing errors and prevents other mistakes that cause the unnecessary disposal of valuable drugs, such as incorrectly storing medications with specific temperature requirements. Accidentally unplugging refrigerators is one factor that contributes to spoilage which Do Not Unplug labels can help prevent.
  • Resource Tracking: Labels with expiration and beyond use dates (BUDs) help to ensure that medications are used before they expire, thus reducing waste from outdated stocks.
  • Cost Reduction - Effective waste management programs generate savings instead of incurring costs associated with disposing of waste. Successful programs require an organizational-wide commitment and execution plan which labels help enable. Clearly labeled recycling bins and containers simplify the collection of recyclable materials and identify different types of waste, such as medical waste, hazardous materials, and recyclables, to ensure proper handling.

In addition, labels often fall into the category known as tail spend. The perceived low-value spend is often unmanaged or receives minimal procurement attention. Yet, consolidating purchases for these products can reduce costs. In addition to the potential for unit cost savings, it reduces administrative overhead and leads to more consistent and reliable products.

Take these steps to reduce supply chain costs and reduce tail spend.

How Labels Reduce Clinical Waste

Clinical waste centers on interactions with patients. It concerns various inefficiencies and errors such as repeating unnecessary tasks, inefficient use of resources, process inconsistencies and more. Clinical waste often extends into operational waste. For example, repeating a diagnostic test due to a label detaching from a specimen is both an operational and clinical waste.

Similar to the waste reduction benefits on the operational side, there are a number of ways labels reduce clinical waste.

  • Medication Management: Medication labels on syringes, IV tubing and prescription bottles provide crucial information about dosage, administration instructions, look-alike sound-alike drugs, expiration dates and more. This helps healthcare providers administer the right medications in the correct doses and reduces the risk of medication errors.
  • Medication Dispensing: Some processes that have typically been handled from a central location are now conducted at the bedside. Unit dosing is one of those tasks. Linerless labels printed from Omnicell devices and applied to medications are a sustainable healthcare labeling solution that simplifies the labeling process and elevates medication safety.
  • Patient Identification: Patient wristbands contain the data necessary to deliver appropriate care. Patient information, including name, allergies, and medical conditions guide appropriate care delivery. This minimizes errors related to misidentification or providing treatments that are not tailored to the patient's needs.
  • Specimen Handling: Labels on specimen containers help ensure proper tracking and identification of samples, reducing the chances of mislabeling or losing specimens. This enhances diagnostic accuracy and reduces the need for sample re-collection.
  • Equipment Maintenance: Labels on medical equipment provide maintenance instructions, calibration dates and usage guidelines. Properly maintained equipment is less likely to malfunction or require premature replacement, reducing equipment-related clinical waste.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Proper labeling is a component of numerous Joint Commission and CMS standards. Labels that comply with regulatory standards eliminate the need for a Requirements for Improvement (RFI) response or the potential regulatory fines and penalties that are associated with non-compliance.

United Ad Label Is Your Healthcare Labeling Partner

Healthcare labels are often overlooked, yet they play a crucial role in enabling essential healthcare processes. When utilized effectively, these labels have the potential to significantly reduce both operational and clinical waste. Moreover, they can facilitate more efficient recycling programs, contributing to a reduction in environmental waste.