Becker’s Hospital Review

Written by Bob Herman

October 17, 2012

Hospitals and health systems have been viewed traditionally as environmental laggards due to their high usage of energy, contact with hazardous materials and role as large waste producers. 

However, their reputations have started to change significantly in the past several years thanks to new sustainability measures. For example, Gundersen Lutheran Health System in La Crosse, Wis., plans to be completely energy independent by 2014. Baptist Health South Florida in Coral Gables has undergone a “comprehensive green” strategic overhaul.

Hospitals and health systems have started to become leaders in the greening of the economy and the sustainability of the environment, mostly because they have had to become leaders, says Gary Cohen. Mr. Cohen is the founder and president of Health Care Without Harm, an international campaign for environmentally responsible healthcare, and in April, he started another project: the Healthier Hospitals Initiative

He and others — including non-profits HCWH, Practice Greenhealth and the Center for Health Design — launched HHI this past April so hospitals and health systems could finally have legitimate benchmarks and means in order “to do no harm” across the entire sustainability spectrum. Some of the largest health systems in the country have already signed on with HHI — Dignity Health in San Francisco, Hospital Corporation of America in Nashville, Tenn., Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., Partners HealthCare in Boston, Tenet Healthcare in Dallas and many others.

Here, Mr. Cohen talks about why HHI has become such an integral part of the hospital sector’s business plan, how hospitals can improve their environmental responsibility and why healthcare needs to be sustainable from an ecological point of view…

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