Making Disposable Scopes Possible

Cost control and lowering the potential for infection are driving disposable endoscopes.  These factors are significant considering over 10 million endoscopic procedures are performed in the U.S. each year.

New manufacturing processes have allowed engineers to place up to 30,000 image sensors in a 3-mm camera head at a fraction of the cost of existing cameras, which opens the door to a lot more applications.  Not only can flexible scopes be made into single-use devices, the 3-mm cameras can now be mounted on the end of instruments, such as biopsy forceps.

One of the driving factors of single-use endoscopes is the fear of cross contamination.  According to current literature, the documented infection rate from endoscopes is 1 per 1.8 million.  Other sources suggest that it is very difficult to ensure a perfect disinfection of endoscopes.  However, one thing is certain: the cleaning and disinfection process can be time consuming.

I asked Brenda Rhodes, the GI lab supervisor at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, TX, about the turnaround time for processing flexible scopes.  Rhodes said, “Current cleaning technology has allowed us to process a scope in about about 45 minutes.  So, with all things considered, we can use a scope every other hour.”

Reimbursement for a colonoscopy is $636, and most video flexible scopes cost from $12,000 to $30,000 and processing adds another $20 to $40 per patient.  So, it would be interesting for a disposable flexible scope to fit within these margins.  But, what’s really exciting is putting a camera on the head of an instrument; this is what I think will really turn a few heads.

James Laskaris, EE, BME
James Laskaris, EE, BME, Clinical Analyst — Mr. James Laskaris is a senior emerging technology analyst at MD Buyline and has been with the company since 1994. With over 30 years of experience in the healthcare field, Mr. Laskaris is the primary analyst of high-end OR technology. He also covers issues related to the legislative and reimbursement effect on healthcare and authors a bimonthly “Issues that Matter” publication. Mr. Laskaris received his biomedical engineering degree from Southern Illinois University. His work has been published in hfm Magazine, Radiology Manager and Healthcare Purchasing News.