We see eLabeling and quick response (QR) codes on everything from concert tickets to boarding passes.
But what about in health care?
In an industry where single-use products and special packaging are often prerequisites for patient safety – eLabeling may make a big difference for clinicians and the environment.
eLabeling helps reduce waste by removing disposable paper instructions and making digital instructions available in real time. Not to mention, it may help preserve critical information.
“When a customer receives our product, they’re likely to take it out of the package and store it somewhere,” says Kristin Sedgwick, senior regulatory affairs associate at 3M. “They’ll unpack and dispose of the waste, but in the process, they end up disposing of including Instructions for Use (IFUs) and product information that are important.”
A move toward eLabeling is one small but mighty way both manufacturers and health organizations might collaborate to improve the clinician experience, increase patient safety and minimize waste.
Practice Greenhealth, a nonprofit organization offering sustainability solutions to the health care community, reports that non-regulated medical waste is the largest waste stream for health care organizations, comprising two-thirds of all hospital waste and more than 30 percent of the hospital waste budget. Non-regulated medical waste includes items like paper, cardboard, food, textiles and plastics.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 85 percent of waste generated by health care activities around the world is general, non-hazardous waste.
The issue of waste – and what to do with it – has been integral to sustainability conversations in health care. Increasingly, more health care organizations ask suppliers for sustainable solutions and take-back initiatives that make the manufacturer responsible for product recycling and disposal.
Alexis Brannan, advanced product assurance engineer at 3M, began her career in the Optimized Operations, or O2, program. The program asks recent graduates to help the business operate more efficiently and effectively. Initially, Alexis was tasked with looking at the viability of eLabeling for the 3M Oral Care division.
Soon, the project took on a life of its own.
As Alexis dove into eLabeling, she realized she might have to take a few steps back to take a step forward. If 3M Oral Health Care were to transition to eLabeling and make IFUs available online, the business needed to invest in a platform to house those documents.
Additionally, each country has its own eLabeling rules and regulations. The European Union Medical Device Regulations (EU MDR) and United States Medical Device Regulations (US MDR) define which products can be eLabeled.
Alexis teamed up with Kristin to determine the requirements for each country, starting with the Oral Care business.
Today, the platform has expanded to support eLabeling across the entire Health Care Business Group. They dedicate their 15 percent time, which encourages 3M employees to pursue projects they’re passionate about, to the eLabeling initiative.
Together, Alexis and Kristin have populated the platform with 500 IFUs and that number is increasing exponentially as more businesses are added to the platform.
As more health care organizations make sustainability a priority, it will be important for companies to keep up.
Less paper means less waste for hospitals and lower production costs – or leaner supply chains – for companies. “We will no longer have to purchase as much paper,” Alexis notes.
“If we can lower manufacturing costs, help clinicians boost productivity, and reduce the carbon footprint,” Kristin observes, “it’s a win-win-win.”