Quest to Sustainability: Is Your Healthcare Institution “Going Green?”

“Going green” means an organization focuses on practices that limit waste harmful to the environment, increases benefits to the environment and society, and encouraging sustainable practices. If an organization wishes to “go green,” leaders need to clearly present the vision to staff at all levels. The values and behavior of the organization leaders help shape the organization culture that in turn helps shape employee behaviors. Evidence suggests “going green” can save money or generate revenue for a company. In April 2014, Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) narrated a video on renewable energy to boost Apple’s environmental efforts; this in turn has boosted Apple’s stock value. A healthcare system in the Pacific Northwest with over 25 hospitals and 200 clinics adopted the Energy Star program in 2003 and saved ~$700,000; by 2005, the savings were ~$2.3 million.

These days, organizations are “going green” to create and gain a competitive advantage in business while boosting the organization’s image in the society. Healthcare organizations need carefully implement the principles of “recycle, reduce and reuse when direct patient care is involved. In the United States, all properties of medical devices, instrumentation and clinical materials are designed by medical manufacturers and approved by FDA for their intended. It’s important to remember that costs saving initiatives are ill-served when they’re executed at the risk of harms on patients. Any intervention in patient care needs to be “patient safety tested” and the results evaluations documented and approved accordingly by the appropriate medical authorizing body. All clinical procedures, includes any interventions, should be reviewed and approved and performed pursuant to the approved policy to avoid harm to patients.

On June 18, 2014, the Joint Commission published its sentinel alert “Preventing Infection from the Misuse of Vials.” This alert advised healthcare providers to avoid using single-dose vials multiple times, reenter multiple-dose vials using the same syringe, or saving these vials for use on another patient. These dangerous practices were driven by the desire to save materials and reduce waste, but these policies were implemented without consideration for the impact on patient care. It’s reported that the practices have resulted in spreading the hepatitis B or C virus, meningitis, and other types of infections.

There are ample opportunities for healthcare organizations to join the “quest for sustainability” by reducing wastes, cost savings, and enhancing the organization’s image in the community. Hospitals could serve environmentally friendly food or support a sustainable food system for patients, by partnering with the local farmers or their own organic vegetable garden. Other practices, such as going paperless, using energy-efficient light switches, choosing renewable energy sources, using the same vendor for the same materials, implementing a recycling program, and the careful disposal of chemicals, stains, and other infectious agents are all possible areas for improvement. In addition, encouraging activities and “greener” lifestyle choices by employees, i.e. taking public transportation or bicycling to work, picking up phone or walking up to ask a colleague directly rather than email or using department memos, and walking meetings. A safe work environment with healthy employees is a solid investment toward sustainability in any organization.

 

Information on policies or practices are solely from my personal experience ONLY and have NO relation to my affiliation with any regulatory or government agency.

satyadi

-Caroline Satyadi, MT(ASCP), SM, DLM, SLS, MBA, MS, CQA (ASQ) has been a laboratory management professional for over 25 years. She has worked with several different medical industries for CLIA/CMS, FDA/ICH/ISO, TJC/CAP/COLA/HFAP accreditation survey readiness.

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