Sustainability might not be the first thing on your mind when you find yourself as a patient at a hospital, but it’s a critical component for more and more healthcare organizations. Sustainability should be part of the larger conversation of organizational, community and patient health.
Healthcare really understands the social aspects of sustainability—we’ve been doing it for years. The benefits of environmental sustainability are just starting to be understood. At Virginia Mason, we believe the “first do no harm” doctrine extends not only into how we treat patients, but also in how we impact the air they breathe and the soil where their food is grown. We take this seriously. We see it as a commitment to our patients, their families, and future generations of their families. The rest of the healthcare industry is starting to see the value, and is coming around.
That said, healthcare is such an important industry at the cusp of major change. With the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act, the whole industry needs to find ways to streamline and reduce waste. Virginia Mason is uniquely positioned to respond to these changes. We were the first healthcare organization in the U.S. to adapt the lean principles of the Toyota Production System as the management methodology for eliminating waste, improving quality and safety, improving efficiency and lowering cost. I recently worked with a team on a project that diverted waste from the landfill, saved us disposal costs, and enabled us to donate clean medical supplies to local and global health efforts. When we reduce costs by eliminating waste through sustainability process improvements like this, we reduce the cost of quality healthcare to the patient and support the long-term financial stability of the organization.