New TIR Takes Hard Look at Medical Device Sustainability


Posted February 2, 2016

Suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and other healthcare technology professionals all have a responsibility to reduce potential negative impacts on the environment when making decisions involving the development and use of medical devices, according to a technical information report (TIR) released by AAMI. The report does not try to define what sustainable practices look like for each group of stakeholders, but instead provides general guidance for how organizations can reduce their environmental footprint and be better global citizens when it comes to medical technology.

The document, AAMI TIR65:2015, Sustainability of Medical Devices—Elements of a Responsible Product Life Cycle, is a first for AAMI in viewing healthcare technology through the prism of responsible environmental and social stewardship across the entire life cycle of a device.

Environmental considerations relate to reducing waste and embracing “green” practices. Social considerations refer to fair labor and business practices.

“TIR65 describes how the product life cycle can be designed so as to ensure medical devices ‘do no harm,’" said Ramé Hemstreet, vice president of operations and chief sustainable resources officer for National Facilities Services of Kaiser Permanente and co-chair of AAMI’s Sustainability Committee, which authored the report. “It's important to know that the device that may save your life isn't unintentionally and unnecessarily contributing to the environmental and social factors that can be detrimental to human health.”

The majority of the report focuses on environmental sustainability. According to the committee, although medical device manufacturers play the largest role in determining the environmental impact of their products, organizations that purchase and/or use those devices make choices that also can affect how they impact the environment.

For manufacturers, environmental factors that should be taken into consideration include:

  • Product and packaging design
  • Raw material selection
  • Use of recycled materials
  • Manufacturing practices
  • Resource management, such as decisions related to energy use, air quality, and water
  • Distribution practices

For users and purchasers, decisions that affect a device’s environmental impact include those relating to:

  • The original selection and acquisition
  • Routine maintenance and repair
  • Medical gas usage
  • The question of single use versus reprocessing
  • Recycling, refurbishment, or donation

“TIR65 should begin a dialogue as to how best reduce the impact of manufacturing, packaging, shipping, utilizing, and disposing of medical devices,” Hemstreet said. “I hope the TIR helps raise the visibility of these considerations, and in some cases, even causes tangible actions to occur.”

The report builds on the AAMI Sustainability Committee’s 2013 white paper, Elements of a Responsible Product Life Cycle, and reflects a collaborative effort involving device manufacturers, healthcare providers, professional organizations, and sustainability advocates.

TIR65 is available for purchase in the AAMI Store.