As a physician watched his hospital move its outpatient clinics from a main hospital center in North Carolina out into the community, the challenges in accessing clean flexible endoscopes quickly surfaced.
It was a moment made to showcase the power of single-use endoscopes, he would come to realize.
“This was really an instant problem,’’ Dr. Austin Rose said in a recent Becker’s Healthcare webinar, which was sponsored by Ambu Inc. “We were struggling with how to get scopes cleaned. The idea of single-use scopes just seemed to be an excellent possible solution.”
Rose, a pediatric otolaryngologist at the University of North Carolina who also teaches there and is vice chair of finance, had first learned about Ambu’s aScope 4 RhinoLaryngo Slim, its flexible ENT scope, a few years ago. His hospital conducted a small trial and found that the scopes were not only well-received by staff but had a cost per use that was less than the reusables they had been using.
“This really helped solve a need for us in the hospital,” Rose said. “The case was pretty easy for us to adopt these single-use scopes as the workhorse of our inpatient consultation service and also in the emergency room for our consults there.”
In the U.S. alone, more than 40 million procedures are done annually using flexible endoscopes across a variety of clinical specialties, Jens Kemp, Ambu’s vice president of marketing, told webinar attendees.
Typically, reusable endoscope and image processing systems, which can cost $75,000 to $100,000, have long product life cycles. One of the powerful advantages that single-use endoscopes have over their reusable counterparts is the speed with which technological change can occur — at affordable prices for hospitals.
“We’re trying to basically bring a much more rapid introduction of new technology to endoscopy with much, much shorter product life cycles,” Kemp said. “That mimics what you see more in consumer electronics.”
Kemp likened the speed of Ambu’s endoscopy iterations to changes in iPhones, where a new version with added technology and performance comes out every year or so.
The safety net that single-use bronchoscopes can provide in ICUs has never been more evident than during peaks in the global COVID-19 pandemic as patients have crowded into hospitals. With heightened infection awareness, some patients have even started to request single-use endoscopes, physicians say.
The topics of infection prevention and cross-contamination gained newfound attention with a safety communication issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June 2020 which recommended that healthcare providers consider using single-use bronchoscopes when there is increased risk of spreading infection, when examining COVID-19 patients, or when immediate reprocessing is not available.
For the first time, Kemp said, there is regulatory support recommending single-use endoscopes, adding to the forces driving single-use endoscopy.
Other factors driving a transition to single-use include workflow and flexibility, economics, and technology innovation. One big research and development focus: artificial intelligence applications in endoscopy, said Mans Barsne, Ambu’s chief innovation officer.
Webinar attendees raised questions about sustainability with single-use devices. Reprocessing generates significant amounts of waste, including personal protective equipment and chemicals used for cleaning and disinfecting. Ambu wants to extend its single-use endoscopy legacy, Kemp said, by being “the world leader in sustainable manufacturing of single use endoscopy.”
Watch the full webinar below: