NOVO Health Services Case Study
Atlanta-based healthcare linen management company NOVO Health Services saved its regional healthcare system client 53% of its costs through a full conversion from disposable to reusable Level 2 isolation gowns in mid-2020. Karl Fillip, CEO Emeritus of NOVO, used the provider’s actual adjusted patient day (APD) data and expenses for disposable gowns for the first half of the year compared to the cost per use of the new gowns, based on 70 washes, during the second half.
The hospital system’s vice president of supply chain and facility management said of the conversion. “We have found that converting to reusable isolation gowns has improved our bottom line,” the official said. “Reusable isolation gowns cost less than disposable ones, but the real savings comes in reducing labor and waste-stream costs. Less trash means less labor collecting trash.”
A regional healthcare system that manages more than 1 million patient visits annually that NOVO Health Services has supplied with patient bed and bath linen in recent years.
The multi-hospital system experienced the same issues that most healthcare providers did as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe in 2020 – a worldwide shortage of commonly used disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers. Disposable isolation gowns were so scarce that hospital staff tried to reuse them but found that wasn’t a viable solution. The provider turned to NOVO after its gown vendor couldn’t supply the single use gowns it had used in the past.
The first issue in the conversion was that some hospital staffers felt the reusable gowns were “damp” when they pulled them out of the storage bags. NOVO found an easy solution to the dampness reported, allowing the gowns to cool for a longer period before packing them, and using perforated bags to ensure airflow. Some adjustments were also made to create space in hospital isolation carts for the gowns.
NOVO supplied Level 2 gowns, which made a significant impact on protection and wearability. Some staff members felt the reusable gowns fit better and were more breathable than single use gowns and others felt they were warmer. As a result, the reusables were at first allocated for use in patient encounters with shorter durations while the disposable gowns were reserved for longer encounters.
“After they started using them, we heard less and less, said Fillip. Comfort, “did not remain a top issue.”
The provider’s advice to healthcare facilities considering a conversion to reusables. “Get clinical buy-in first. Let the team touch and feel prospective new products and ensure they have input on product styles,” said the client. In addition, communicate transparently about any resulting operational issues. “Be upfront about any changes to accommodate the new product, such as additional or different storage space required on carts.”
Another lesson was that because disposable gowns tend to be bulky and fill trash containers quickly, shifting to reusable gowns meant significantly less garbage and associated waste disposal costs. “We have found that converting to reusable isolation gowns has improved our bottom line,” the official said. “Reusable isolation gowns cost less than disposable ones, but the real savings comes in reducing labor and waste-stream costs. Less trash means less labor collecting trash.”
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Fillip worked closely with the client to document and compare the costs of the reusable gowns versus gowns that are used once and discarded. Highlights from the cost comparison study:
- Total waste volume dropped from 19 pounds per APD before the conversion to 17.4 pounds per APD afterwards, a decrease of 1.7 lbs or 9% in overall waste volume.
- Environmental services (EVS) expense to remove the trash decreased 18¢, from $2.06 to $1.88 cents per APD, also a 9% drop.
- The total waste and labor savings was 30¢ per APD
- The cost of use of each reusable isolation gown, 13¢ based on 70 washes, plus the laundering expense of 45¢, meant the total cost was 58¢ cents versus the single use gown cost of 60¢.
- Netting out the waste savings, the reusable gowns cost 28¢, a 53% savings versus disposable gowns.
The results were so striking that NOVO has made documenting the cost savings for clients a standard business practice.
Fillip said he was inspired to conduct the cost comparison when he heard from hospitals that they planned to return to single use gowns after the COVID-19 pandemic subsided because disposables are less costly.
“It felt horrible. We’ve proven our case. It’s unequivocally less money and it generates less trash,” Fillip said of reusable gowns.
NOVO developed a hybrid plan, composed of Level 2 reusable and disposable isolation gowns to offer to clients and supports it with the provider’s actual adjusted patient day data and expenses whenever possible. He’s found that a cost comparison of disposable gowns before the conversion and a mix of disposable and reusable gowns afterwards is a valuable sales and client retention tool.
“We have been able to change the narrative in a way that we’re gaining attention. The clients that have signed up with us for reusable gowns have stayed with us because we continually provide the data,” he said.
“I’ve painted a picture that you need both, whatever you think the number is, 60:40, 50:50,70:30.” He added that client needs are highly variable depending on the patient population, the space available, the facility’s storage and waste disposal systems, existing purchasing agreements, and, of course, world events.
“We’re not through with COVID and supply chain issues yet,” Fillip said. “I say, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.’”