Posted on December 4th, 2013
Hospitals operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And in the process of treating patients, they use a lot of water and energy and generate a lot of waste from medical products, protective drapes and packaging. Though most hospitals have initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint, more can be done.
Starting a sustainability program not only reduces waste by recycling materials and saving energy, but it also helps protect our communities.
Establishing a green team: One of the first things a hospital should do before implementing a sustainability program is to create a team tasked with leading the overall initiative. For example, the team might focus on increasing the amount and type of recycling practiced at the hospital; sorting waste streams to minimize the hospital’s contribution to landfills; and increasing awareness of how employees can positively impact the environment. The team should be both empowered and supported by leadership to execute initiatives but also be held to specific goals.
Medical device reprocessing: Hospitals discard everything from surgical gowns and towels to laparoscopic ports after a single use. In operating rooms, items that are never used are thrown away in order to maintain a sterile environment and prevent infections. Proper reprocessing and sterilization of medical devices allows hospitals to reduce the amount of waste entering landfills. According to The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, reprocessed devices can cost half as much as new devices, which improves the hospital’s bottom line without sacrificing clinical quality.
Capital equipment re-selling and recycling: Hospitals can generate revenue by selling surplus equipment for reuse throughout the world. There are companies that will re-sell these items via live auction, and medical equipment that is not purchased can be recycled. By re-selling or recycling capital assets, hospitals can generate revenue and reduce their waste impact on the environment.
Posted on November 22nd, 2013
Practice Greenhealth reports that, “As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the Federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally responsible products and technologies,” said President Obama in Executive Order 13415
This is a tall order for any organization, let alone the largest health care system on the planet, but the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), with more than 150 hospitals and 800 outpatient care clinics across the country, has embraced the challenge and is on its way to meeting this ambitious goal. “The VHA has always been on the forefront of environmental stewardship,” notes Derrick Morrison, VHA’s program manager for waste management and recycling programs in the Environmental Programs Service. “The VHA is a charter member of Practice Greenhealth, but this order has taken the VHA’s environmental efforts to a new level.” In 2010, VHA diverted 27 percent of its nonhazardous solid waste through its recycling and composting programs but knew they could do more.
VHA accounts for 99 percent of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ total waste. One of VHA’s challenges is to track waste data in a consistent manner.
One hospital in the pilot project, the Portland VA Medical Center in Oregon, has already surpassed its 2015 goal. The hospital is not only reducing waste but also saving money. Even the smallest changes are making a big impact at the facility. For example, the ICU nurses examined how much waste and recycling was leaving a patient room during patient discharge. By evaluating and eliminating certain items on the ICU cart that were unnecessary, they are saving close to $80,000 a year. Portland VA’s recycling efforts have also been tremendous. In 2012, the hospital recycled 11.1 tons of fluorescent lamps and bulbs, 315 tons of mixed paper, 92 tons of yard debris, 65.5 tons of commingled plastic, and 28.5 tons of medical plastic. And through their new composting program, it has composted 78.5 tons of food waste this year.
Posted on November 15th, 2013
Practice Greenhealth reports, that in the United States, health care facilities produce roughly 12 million pounds of trash that gets transported to landfills on a daily basis, thus accounting for approximately eight percent of the country’s carbon footprint. Health care institutions nationwide are uniting through sustainable initiatives that encourage healthier patients, healthier staff and healthier environments. By properly disposing of waste, individuals and departments throughout an organization, from senior leadership to front-line workers, can play an essential role in the success of a waste management program.
In December of 2011, the trash volume at Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH) was 76 percent of total waste. Regulated Medical Waste (RMW) was at 9 percent, and the hospital was recycling about 13 percent of its total waste stream through confidential shredding and cardboard. One year later, vast recycling efforts had decreased solid waste to 66 percent. Recycling climbed to 24 percent, and RMW dropped to 8 percent. Total savings for YNHH were over $50,000.
Not only does recycling create a healthier environment for the community, but it also can save money. By recycling single-stream products (paper, plastics, newspaper, cardboard, glass) as well as confidential material, mattresses, and construction debris, significant savings can be redeemed. While the politically correct idea of going green sounds exciting to leaders cost savings grab their attention as well.
In 2012 Yale-New Haven Hospital achieved:
- Two percent reduction (185,203 pounds) in medical waste volume
- 95 percent of major construction and demolition debris recycled
- 26 percent of paper, glass, plastic, cans, and cardboard recycled
- 302,400 pounds of food waste diverted by utilizing the bio-digester
- 28,674 pounds of waste diverted out of landfills due to medical device reprocessing
Read the full article here
Posted on November 12th, 2013
Healthcare Facilities Today reports that the Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) has launched a new certificate program to acknowledge the environment and ecological sustainability efforts of healthcare environmental service departments.
AHE’s Environmental Sustainability Certificate Program provides facilities and organizations an opportunity to demonstrate accomplishments related to environmental sustainability and stewardship. The program provides guidance on budget-friendly, efficient, effective and value-added environmentally sustainable health care operations for facilitates of all sizes and care settings. The certificate program is a component of AHE’s overall sustainability efforts, which include the Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals and educational opportunities.
Get more information on the AHE Environmental Sustainability Certificate Program.
Posted on November 11th, 2013
The business case for sustainability is a well-worn litany of benefits, both tangible and intangible: cutting costs, improving quality, attracting and retaining talent and enhancing reputation, among others. Somewhere on that list is innovation — sustainability’s potential to create opportunities for companies to tweak or radically improve their products and services in a way that reduces their environmental impacts, often while delivering new features and benefits.
Sustainability spurs innovation in at least a couple of ways. One is that it can provide a different lens for thinking, helping companies to approach situations differently — for example, thinking about supply chains through the lens of reducing suppliers’ environmental impacts. This, says Aronson, “can unlock companies’ innovative potential,” enabling them to see situations from a different point of view.
Sustainability also can drive innovation by adding constraints — reducing weight or packaging, improving operating efficiency or allowing for takeback and disassembly, for example. “The constraints imposed by sustainability can actually serve as an impetus for companies to think differently and therefore innovatively,” says Aronson.
Sterilmed, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, is an example of how sustainability can add value through innovation. Sterilmed — which offers products and services including single-use medical device reprocessing, equipment repair and pre-owned equipment sales — was hearing more and more from customers looking for it to bring additional solutions to market that would align with their sustainability strategies.
“SterilMed already does a very sustainable thing,” explains Aronson. “They take these devices that are designed to be single-use, and they re-process them in a way that they can be used again, which saves money, because it costs less than making new ones.”
Posted on November 7th, 2013
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
9:00am to 2:00PM EST
Hosted by: Wharton IGEL, Johnson & Johnson
Event Title: Metrics that Matter, Messages that Motivate
Event Theme: Making the Right Case for Sustainability in Healthcare
Abstract: While sustainability is gaining traction in the world of healthcare, many healthcare organizations struggle with making the business case to their CFO, providers and even to their suppliers. This one-day conference hosted by the Wharton school will focus on the key drivers of sustainability and explore what benefits/outcomes are most compelling to the different players. We’ll hear how companies in healthcare and other industries have succeeded at getting their CFOs and Commercial leaders to become fans of sustainability, how they have communicated the importance of sustainability to suppliers, and how they have made sustainability a differentiator in the marketplace.
See details and conference agenda here
Posted on November 4th, 2013
Public dialogue has also begun to converge on the role of hospitals and clinicians in protecting public health from global warming. Just in the past few months, Time magazine, Forbes and the San Francisco Chronicle all highlighted the unique position and ethical imperative of health care to steer this work. This momentum follows recognition earlier this summer when the Obama Administration named Health Care Without Harm president and co-founder Gary Cohen and fellow nurse colleague Dr. Laura Anderko as “Champions of Change” for their work to adapt health care and protect public health from the hazards of a changing climate.
Time and again we hear that nurses are considered the most trusted profession in the United States, yet few of us regularly contemplate how nursing influences and health promotion infiltrates our everyday lives well beyond bedside patient teaching. Approximately 3,000,000 Americans are nurses. Not only are we in the emergency rooms responding to heat-related asthma and heart disease, we are hospital executives implementing massive lean energy initiatives and creating positions for ourselves as sustainability coordinators. We are in colleges and universities, conducting research and teaching nursing and public health students.
The healthy lives of people depend ultimately on the health of Planet Earth — its soil, its water, its oceans, its atmosphere, its biological diversity — all of the elements which constitute people’s natural environment. By extension, therefore, nurses need to be concerned with the promotion, maintenance and restoration of health of the natural environment, particularly with the pollution, degradation and destruction of that environment being caused by human activities.
Read the full article here
Posted on October 30th, 2013
November 18, 2013 – 3:00 – 4:00pm EST
Everyone knows healthcare can be a messy business – with hospitals generating approximately 5.9 million tons of waste every year destined for landfills, incineration, or other environmentally harmful treatment options. What might not be so obvious is that the various waste streams within a healthcare can be very costly – with the average hospital spending lots of money on waste disposal each year. As hospitals look to identify cost-savings, one are for constant education is around regulated medical waste. Many hospitals currently throw much of their waste in the regulated medical waste (RMW) stream, despite being non-infectious. RMW is much more expensive – and harsher on the environment. Hospitals that have implemented an education, minimization and segregation program have seen significant cost savings and a reduction in overall waste.
Learn how Johns Hopkins Health System has used the HHI as a scorecard to establish measurable goals for sustainability improvements, and through a focused effort to reduce its regulated medical waste stream, was able to reduce RMW by over 50%, in the first six months!
See full announcement here
Posted on October 29th, 2013
As hospitals and healthcare systems struggle with growing costs, shrinking revenues and pressures to reduce their environmental footprints, there is a tremendous opportunity for them to cut costs and waste through more sustainable practices.
Kenneth J. Baker, Upstate Medical University’s Materials Systems Manager in Syracuse, NY, states how Upstate launched a reprocessing initiative in 2010 that has generated significant cost savings while reducing the organization’s medical waste stream. By reprocessing two low-risk, non-invasive products — compression sleeves and pulse oximetry sensors — they saved over $250,000 in 2010. At the same time, they implemented reprocessing for orthopedic ex-fix devices with the product’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to save an additional $200,000 that year. Over the past three years, based on this success, Upstate has added additional items to the reprocessing stream, including bits, blades and trocars from the OR, as well as items used in electrophysiology and the Cath Labs. To date, they have saved their organization over $1M.
“By recycling and reprocessing single use devices (SUDs) hospitals can significantly reduce their waste removal costs and environmental footprint,” adds Keith Hoof, Director of Marketing at Sterilmed, part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. “Reprocessed SUDs cost up to 50 percent less than new devices; as such, reprocessing directly impacts facilities’ bottom lines, allowing them to better provide access to quality care for their patients.”
“One of the most prominent trends we’re seeing is a more eco-centric, modified interpretation of what constitutes ‘waste’ by staff and hospital leadership,” said Kevin Liszewski, Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Accounts, Stryker Sustainability Solutions. “As adoption of sustainable practices has grown, the number of products traditionally categorized as waste has decreased. More items can now be safely reused, recycled or reprocessed, decreasing the overall environmental burden.” “When hospitals evaluate ways to reduce waste, a great place to start is educating staff about the connection between their behavior and our environment,” said Liszewski. “It’s important to help staff understand how their daily actions — from recycling their empty water bottles, to properly sorting used devices into collection bins after a procedure — can impact the environment and the financial health of the institution. This communication and behavior change needs to be driven from the C-level.”
Posted on October 24th, 2013
A year after Sandy, what have we learned? At a community health level, we learned that the loss of 15 percent of the total bed capacity in New York City, alongside 5000 nursing home beds, tested the limits of the regional health care system for weeks and months beyond the event itself.
In the age of climate change, our cities must be able to provide critical health care services and important public health infrastructure in times of need. We must design our critical infrastructure services so they can withstand grid failure, flooding and other consequences of climate change. We also need to integrate resiliency with sustainability concerns, since we are learning that a host of sustainable design and operations strategies can also dramatically improve the resilience of the healthcare sector.
The health care sector represents almost 20 percent of the entire US economy. It should lead by example and become the early adopters of technologies and practices that mitigate their own substantial climate footprint and support the transition to a renewable energy economy. We know that climate change is bringing increased health impacts along with it — asthma, dengue fever, heat stroke and waterborne diseases — so health care also has a mission-related imperative to address its own contribution to our nation’s fossil fuel addiction. The health care sector will be on the front lines of treating the uptick in these health problems.