UCSF Sustainability Stories

Byron Lee, Champion of Reprocessing in the Electrophysiology Lab

Dr. Lee

When it comes to sustainability, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is the mantra.  But when it comes to the surgical or invasive procedures environment, there can be resistance to the idea of remanufacturing and reusing medical equipment.  Yet here at UCSF, the Electrophysiology (EP) lab, which performs cardiac catheterization, cardiac ablations, pacemaker implantation and ultrasound (Intra-cardiac echocardiography) catheterization, has successfully implemented a catheter reprocessing program, where a third-party remanufactures the catheters to their original manufacture specs and resells the product at a discount price. 

Initially, the program was unsuccessful due to various concerns around quality, reliability, safety and acceptance.  After the appointment of Dr. Byron Lee as UCSF Electrophysiology Lab Director last year, and improvements in the quality of reprocessed products, the EP lab overcame objections and launched a successful program, saving money and reducing waste.

The quality, reliability and safety of reprocessing by Ascent have significantly improved over the years, but the significant difference with the most recent re-introduction of reprocessing was the influence of Dr. Lee in his support of the use of reprocessed catheters.

During his fellowship at Stanford Medical Center, Dr. Lee had used reprocessed catheters as standard practice and experienced first hand the cost and environmental savings that could be realized while still proving high-quality care; a win-win situation worth advocating for.

“It takes that extra step to explain to other physicians the value of this change.  If you take the time to explain to them that this catheter is reprocessed, retested and meets the same quality, we can still provide the same high level of care and look what we have to gain… then they get it,” explained Dr. Lee.

“We’re all part of a team here and when the medical center recognized what we are doing, this recognition justified requests for new equipment and created more willingness to fund these projects,”  continued Lee.  It was important to let the doctors know that the reprocessing is not going unnoticed or unseen.

EP reprocesses 1,000 catheters per year, as well as recycles the ablation catheter tips for metal recovery, for a cost savings of over $248,000 per year for reprocessing and approximately $20,000 per year for recycling. The cost savings from recycling has gone back into a heart and vascular fund and is used for staff education expenses. Nursing and technical staff are able to request these funds for educational seminars, helping garner support by showing staff a direct benefit from reprocessing efforts.

The savings also allowed the hiring of an RN to provide patient support services, which directly impacts patient care and satisfaction and has been hugely successful. 

Lee concluded, “If we have the potential to save this much money, why not do it?” 

Says Jeff Kalin, operations director of UCSF’s Heart and Vascular Center,  “Having Dr. Lee, who’s a leader and innovator, on board really helped immensely to implement this change.  You need to have an individual like him to make this type of an effort successful.  Getting the staff to buy into and support it is important too.  You have to provide them with the information needed to create understanding and commitment to help collect and segregate the waste so the supplies can be reused and recycled.”