DOTmed News

September 2012

by Diana Bradley , Staff Writer

With so many potential benefits, from cost savings to improved patient care and employee health, it’s a wonder that more health care facilities aren’t jumping onto the environmentally conscious bandwagon. But, there’s a good reason for that – from an institutional perspective, it turns out greening a hospital isn’t easy. 

…Among the organizations and tools in place to aid hospitals with greening efforts, there is: Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading membership and networking organization for health care institutions that have made a commitment to sustainable, environmentally preferable practices; the Green Guide for Health Care, which adapts the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (USGBC’s LEED) standards to the special needs of hospitals; and Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, an organization that aims to reduce mercury and improve waste management. Health care facilities can also use the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), a self reporting sustainability evaluation tool developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). 

Refurbishing/reprocessing medical equipment 
Refurbishment/reprocessing programs offer hospitals yet another cost cutting route, through long-term fiscal and environmental value, reducing supply costs and the environmental impact of providing care, according to Tamara Cutler, VP of public affairs at Stryker Sustainability Solutions. 

“Reprocessed medical devices are roughly half the cost of their original counterparts,” she says. “The savings add up quickly. Some hospitals save millions of dollars each year and can redirect these cost savings to patient care quality initiatives.” 

Sustainability benefits for hospitals don’t come solely from materials used to construct the devices – but also from the fact that implementing a reprocessing program diverts medical waste from landfills. Put another way: with reprocessing, single-use medical devices are treated as assets, not waste. As a result, hospitals can also save money by diverting waste away from costly disposal techniques, notes Cutler. 

…Likewise, Stryker’s reprocessing programs are in use at more than 1,900 leading hospitals and hospital systems across the U.S. Last year, the company helped divert nearly 3,400 tons of medical waste and saved hospitals $206 million in supply expenses. On a per-hospital basis, some save more than $600,000 annually…

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