Greening Healthcare: Q&A with Practice Greenhealth Executive Director

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Greening Healthcare: Q&A with Practice Greenhealth Executive Director

January 28th, 2014

DotMed Business News reports that doing a little bit of homework and intelligently greening your health care offerings can have a positive impact on your bottom line. In an interview with Practice Greenhealth’s executive director, Laura Wenger, more is discussed about the ways in which hospitals and healthcare systems are going “green.”  HCBN: What reasons do facilities give for not going green?
LW: Cost and staff. Red bag waste costs facilities up to ten times more than regular waste to dispose of, yet there’s a tendency to use it even for trash that isn’t regulated medical waste.  Other things, like kit reformulation, can also save money and be an environmentally responsible practice. If a kit has 50 items, but you only need 20, what are you doing with the rest of it? It’s not sterile anymore, so you can’t store it for the next patient. However, if you work with your kit packer, you can cut costs and cut unnecessary waste.  With health care reform and the way things are going, reimbursement isn’t going up. In the past, hospitals used to just up their prices to cover expenses. But that’s not happening anymore. So now, it’s a matter of being more efficient and decreasing their operational costs in order to still keep serving their community. But it takes time and energy to work on those initiatives. HCBN: How much might a hospital expect to save with moderate greening efforts? LW: That will widely vary, but among our Top Performers, the top 200 award winners in 2013, there was a savings of more than 16.8 million dollars in recycling programs alone. That amount was calculated by figuring out the amount of tons of waste that was diverted from a landfill to a recycling program — over 64 thousand tons of waste.  The same group saved over $30 million in electricity savings. They accomplished that by renovating facilities, switching to LED lighting, and other various energy initiatives.  Our hospitals also saved $18.3 million by utilizing reprocessing services for both invasive and non-invasive products. The reprocessors take them back and clean, sterilize and sell back to facilities at 50 percent of cost on average of what the purchase price would be for the same OEM device. This practice also diverted 330 tons of waste.
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Finding Success with Green Procurement in Healthcare

January 24th, 2014

Healthcare Global reports that there is one sustainability initiative that truly defines “green procurement.” It is single-use medical device (SUD) reprocessing, which allows hospitals to reduce the cost of purchasing select medical devices and decrease waste from entering the landfill, all without compromising the quality of care.
At the very basic level, third-party reprocessing involves cleaning, testing, repackaging and sterilizing a number of medical devices labeled by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) as “single-use.” A U.S. Government Accountability Office report from 2000 concluded that FDA-regulated reprocessed devices are as safe and effective as original equipment. Reprocessed devices are also much cheaper than an original device, coming in at about half the cost of an original device. In fact, according to the Association of Medical Device Reprocessors (AMDR), reprocessing one to two percent of  all single-use devices could save the healthcare industry up to 2 billion in supply chain costs. The benefits of reprocessing expand well beyond financial incentives too. One of the leading reprocessing companies in the U.S. helped divert nearly 7.6 million pounds of medical waste in 2012 alone. Breaking this down to the individual hospital level, reprocessing can help hospitals divert more than 8,000 pounds of regulated medical waste from landfills each year, while larger systems can divert more than 50,000 pounds.
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Waste not, want not, will reprocessing remain efficient in the future?

January 22nd, 2014

DotMed Healthcare Business News reports that to the average patient, reusing surgical tools like colonoscopy biopsy forceps seems like the last thing hospitals should do. In reality, however,  reprocessing is helping hospitals save millions of dollars and is forecast for robust growth, averaging almost nine percent a year, according to market research firm Millennium Research Group.
Reprocessing is by no means a new practice – in fact, it has been around for decades. But as cost-cutting measures are coming into vogue with the advent of health care reform, the industry has seen an especially strong surge of growth in recent years as more hospitals implement reprocessing programs. “Hospitals are being asked to do more with less and reprocessing is one of the most impactful resource management programs that allows hospitals to save money,” says Kevin Liszewski, vice president of marketing and corporate accounts for Stryker Sustainability Solutions. Along with cutting costs, reprocessing is also a savvy way for hospitals to show their commitment to the environment. The practice is estimated to reduce yearly waste by thousands of tons in the United States alone. “Four billion pounds of waste are generated by the U.S. health annually. Reprocessing does reduce waste, so this will be a key driver in future growth, and over time, it will increasingly become a factor as the environmental concerns become more acute,” said Sohaib Perwaiz, senior analyst at Millennium Research Group. Around 3,000 U.S. hospitals currently have reprocessing programs, according to the Association of Medical Device Reprocessors.  While pioneering academic centers were the first to adopt these programs, the net has now widened to include hospitals of all kinds and sizes.
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Practice Greenhealth releases Sustainability Benchmark Report

January 16th, 2014

The 2013 Environmental Excellence Awards Sustainability Benchmark Report, is now available for download by Practice Greenhealth Members.  In addition to reporting on metrics, the report shares sustainability trends and areas of interest where winners have saved millions of dollars.
Single-Use Device (SUD) Reprocessing As reprocessing of single-use devices (SUDs) continues to grow, hospitals continue to save money. New this year, Table 21 presents the top ten devices most commonly reprocessed. Pulse oximeters top the list, closely followed by the ultrasonic scalpel. Interestingly, the data suggests that smaller hospitals are significantly more likely to reprocess the top three items in this list, and somewhat more likely to reprocess most of the items on the list. Savings from diverted disposal costs and purchasing reprocessed devices is reported in Table 22. Hospitals in the data set saved over $3 million dollars from SUD reprocessing and prevented 680 tons of waste from going into solid waste or RMW disposal. On average, hospitals saved $184 per staffed bed. Smaller hospitals tended to save more per bed, per patient day and per OR.
Members can log in and download the full report including tables here

AMDR President Dan Vukelich to speak at Architecture, Capital Equipment and Engineering (ACE) Summit and Reverse Expo February 3, 2014 in New Orleans

January 13th, 2014

AMDR is proud to announce that President Dan Vukelich will be presenting alongside Seema Wadhwa, Director of Sustainability at Inova Health at the 2014 ACE Summit and Reverse Expo in New Orleans, LA.  Mr. Vukelich and Ms. Wadhwa will be presenting their topic "Reduce Reuse Reprocess" which will discuss the FDA-regulated reprocessing programs that offer hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers the opportunity to improve patient care, reduce costs and enhance their sustainability initiatives by safely reusing medical devices labeled for "single use."

 Monday, February 3, 2014

Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, New Orleans, LA

2:30 pm – 3:30 pm

Reduce, Reuse, Reprocess

Who’s concerned about quality? Everyone. Much attention has been focused on patient safety and infection prevention. As information is made more readily available to patients and the scrutiny on health-acquired infections increases, providers are even more acutely aware of the importance of cleanliness. Medical device reprocessing has been identified as a core component of green technology and is predicted to be one of the top 20 fastest growing industries in the next five years. This FDA-regulated process that involves the cleaning and sterilization of contaminated devices for reuse during sequential treatments on multiple patients is one of the top financial and environmental sustainability initiatives currently employed by U.S. hospitals. Reprocessing programs offer hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers the opportunity to improve patient care, reduce costs and enhance their sustainability initiatives by safely sanitizing reusable medical devices. In this session, presenters will describe smarter ways to utilize resources. They will provide examples of the unique processes and challenges facility leaders must know in order to view reprocessing areas as an integral part of the team delivering safe patient care.  Additionally, the presenters will share perspectives to discuss strategies for choosing a third party reprocessor. Learning Objectives
  1. List the questions to ask when selecting reprocessing companies to deliver optimum results to your facility.
  2. Define the qualifications and key factors to consider when choosing a third party processor.
  3. Describe the best practices in the reprocessing and reuse of medical devices and how they can impact your facility’s bottom line.


About ACE ACE stands for Architecture, Capital Equipment and Engineering. The ACE Summit and Reverse Expo is the premier professional development and networking event from the producer of the IDN Summit and Reverse Expo setting the foundation for collaboration among healthcare’s architectural, capital equipment and engineering sectors. The event is uniquely positioned to focus on healthcare construction and capital equipment projects and brings together senior healthcare executives with suppliers of architecture, construction, capital equipment, engineering and facilities products or services.  

Sustainability: Greening the OR reduces waste

January 9th, 2014

Health Facilities Management reports that the operating room (OR) generates an estimated 42 percent of a hospital’s revenue, but it’s also the source of 20 to 30 percent of a hospital’s total waste volume despite its relatively small footprint, according to a study by the McKesson Group.  A few years ago Practice Greenhealth, Reston, Va., recognized that the pervasive OR waste also represented an opportunity. It launched its Greening the OR initiative in April 2010 with about 50 participants.
When the program reaches its fourth anniversary in a few months it will count about 425 hospitals as participants, with countless more using the free program’s tools without officially signing up, says Laura Wenger, R.N., executive director, Practice Greenhealth.  The mission is to raise awareness and educate hospitals about how they can develop a more sustainable OR. Reducing the glut of medical instrument packaging, smarter waste segregation and recycling are cornerstones of the program. “It costs the hospital 10 times more to haul away one bag of medical waste that has to be specially handled and treated compared with clear bag waste. If the waste is properly segregated up front, they have significant savings out the back door,” she says.  Greening the OR targets other areas for cost-savings and waste-reduction, including Single-use device reprocessing “We try to look at greening the OR from a holistic perspective and not just waste, although reducing waste is definitely a large opportunity,” Wenger says.
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Global Refurbished Medical Equipment Market worth $8.45 Billion by 2017

January 3rd, 2014

Refurbishing of medical device refers to restoring used equipment or systems into a condition of safety and effectiveness comparable to new including actions such as repair, rework, update and replacement of worn parts with original parts. Refurbished products do not alter any product specification like remanufactured products, thus requiring no special approval to market the refurbished products in different countries. Refurbished medical devices represent the aftermarket of used medical devices worldwide. As per standard definition, refurbished devices hold a niche market which is different from remanufactured and used devices market. The global refurbished devices market is classified into imaging-diagnostic-monitoring devices, minimally invasive surgical devices, radiation oncology devices, biotechnology instruments and so others. Refurbished medical devices market is expected to grow at a faster rate with a CAGR of 7.8% from 2012 to 2017. The global refurbished market has seen challenging and dynamic market conditions, but still remains strong, with a size of approximately $8.45 billion in 2017 and an estimated annual growth rate of 7.8% over the next five years. Affordable offerings of used branded products and enhanced access to replacement parts and repair technology are contributing to widespread adoption of the refurbished medical devices by healthcare institutions worldwide. Full Story

Donald Berwick Applauds Health Care Sustainability Initiatives

December 27th, 2013

Dr. Berwick is a champion for the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) and recognizes environmental sustainability as a powerful means to help achieve the Triple Aim -- better care for individuals, better health for populations and per capita cost reduction. "Hospitals, places of healing, can model healthier behavior," said Dr. Berwick. "The work of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative reinforces and strengthens the Triple Aim. Leaders that integrate environmentally sustainable operations at their facilities create a culture of nurturing and demonstrate sincere commitment to all people." Dr. Berwick extended a call to action to the health care quality improvement experts in the room: be environmental stewards, make sustainability part of quality initiatives and champion sector-wide participation. The health care sector's impact on the environment is substantial -- from producing an astonishing 5.2 billion tons of waste annually and consuming more than eight percent of the nation's energy, to using products containing mercury, DEHP and other harmful chemicals. "Sustainability in health care is both a sound business decision and the right thing to do for improved public health and reduced environmental impact," said Gary Cohen, president of Health Care Without Harm and founder of HHI. "Over 800 organizations have enrolled in HHI. These pioneering health systems are implementing exciting new innovations to help achieve their Triple Aim." Learn more about the Healthier Hospitals Initiative at and read about HHI's success in its first year in the 2012 HHI Milestone Report.
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Tulane Hospital taking steps to reduce medical waste

December 18th, 2013

Tulane is about nine months into a two-pronged initiative to reduce its regulated medical waste and cutting costs.  “It’s something that the company is taking very seriously. This is the direction that we’re moving in, the green way,” said Hiral Patel, assistant administrator of Tulane’s environmental services division. “This program touches on all elements. First and foremost was reducing the carbon footprint, for sure. Then it’s about cost savings.”
The healthcare industry has long had a garbage problem. Though no organization tracks just how much waste hospitals produce, most estimates are in the millions of tons a year.  Practice Greenhealth, a nonprofit organization that advocates for less waste in the health care sector, puts the number at about 5.9 million tons per year. That figure is conservative, said Kaeleigh Sheehan, project manager for Project Greenhealth’s Greening the Operating Room initiative, because it counts only hospitals that have already taken steps to reduce waste production. About one-third of all medical waste is generated in the operating room, Shaheen said. Healthcare providers across the country have been trying to bring the figure down.  Some, for instance, are now reusing medical devices that are declared as “single use” by manufacturers but are cleared by the Food and Drug Administration to be used more than once. The equipment is sterilized by a third party and sold to hospitals at a discount. Others are carefully monitoring new purchases to cut incineration and landfill fees.
Full Story

Sustainability Mythbusters: Debunking the Sustainability Myths

December 13th, 2013

Sustainability also leads to gains in efficiency that ultimately results in cost savings. Hospitals that invest between $100,000 and $1 million in saving energy, for example — things like HVAC upgrades and lighting retrofits — can cut energy use by up to 20%. Those that take a more comprehensive approach have the potential to save more than 30 percent on energy costs and see their profitability rise. Sustainability makes a sound business case on a bigger level as well, in terms of risk management and business continuity. Climate change will likely impact all kinds of companies in the near future, whether it’s a Mexican tequila company facing a shortage of water or wheat producers enduring drought and wildfires. There are also extreme weather events, like Hurricane Sandy in 2012, to be prepared for. Committing to be more sustainable now can help brace for the challenges of the future. Companies who manage sustainability well are managing risk well and will be duly rewarded. The business case for sustainability is no myth. It is real and can be measured in many direct and indirect ways. And while there are many companies out there who’ve made a real commitment to be sustainable and who are reaping the benefits from it, there are those who remain skeptical. That won’t be the case much longer: either they will see the benefits and make the shift — or be left behind.
Full Story here