Patient preferences for disposable and reusable vaginal specula and their willingness to compromise in the era of climate change: A cross- sectional study

Kathryn Hunt
Kathryn Hunt • 11 December 2023

Objective: To evaluate patient satisfaction on gynaecological examination with metal, plastic and biobased plastic vaginal specula, and to investigate whether patients are willing to compromise on comfort for a more sustainable healthcare system.

Design: Cross-sectional study: population-based survey.

Setting: Gynaecological outpatient clinics in five Dutch hospitals.

Population: Patients during general gynaecology consultation hours.

Methods: A survey containing two questions about patient demographics, four about comfort and five about sustainability and healthcare was distributed.

Main outcome measures: Comfort score (scale 1–10). Secondary outcomes: (1) temperature, size and ease of insertion, (2) willingness to compromise for a more sustainable healthcare system.

Results: In all, 196 patients completed the survey. Biobased plastic vaginal specula scored significantly higher on comfort than the metal ones (mean 8.03 ± 1.65 versus 7.26 ± 1.51 respectively; P < 0.001). The biobased plastic vaginal speculum is significantly the most comfortable on temperature, whereas the metal speculum is the least comfortable (P < 0.007). Most patients are willing to compromise on comfort or are open to the reuse of disposables to contribute to a more sustainable healthcare. The majority of patients (77%) urge healthcare organisations to combat climate change.

Conclusions: There is a small but statistically significant difference in favour of a biobased plastic speculum regarding comfort score, although it might be questioned whether this is clinically relevant. Furthermore, patients are willing to compromise on comfort for a more sustainable healthcare, which should be a contributing factor in speculum selection.

Resource author(s)
Amber A. A. Ten Buuren, Tessa B. Poolman, Marlies Y. Bongers, Lauren M. Bullens, Nehalennia Van Hanegem, Wenche M. Klerkx, Anne Timmermans, Nicolaas P. A. Zuithoff, Anneke Kwee
Resource publishing organisation(s) or journal
BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology
Resource publication date
December 2023

Comments (1)

Alice Clack
Alice Clack

Thank you - important that although there may be a slight benefit comfort wise, the vast majority of patients are happy, and indeed want us to move back to re-usable speculums. I also suspect technique is more important than the speculum used.

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