Despite popular perceptions that sustainability measures will financially drain hospitals and health systems, they can drive savings when organizations take certain steps, according to a new report from the University of Pennsylvania.
There are numerous ways that hospitals can make operations greener, such as conserving water and sourcing food locally, but part of what holds back many providers from implementing sustainability initiatives is their focus on the short-term bottom line.
The report highlights several aspects of sustainability to help hospitals understand its benefits, including:
The "triple bottom line": Leaders interested in sustainability initiatives must emphasize the benefits to finances, patient outcomes and the environment as a whole, or the "triple bottom line," rather than trying to convince their organizations to invest in more expensive green products, the report argues.
Involve employees: The report urges providers to organize "green teams" to bring together employees from various sectors to make sure the benefits of sustainability initiatives are shared throughout the organization. In particular, it states, providers should make sure the enthusiasm of those who spearhead the initiatives spreads to their organizations' overall culture.
Emphasize the benefit to the provider first and foremost: "Sometimes short-term costs yield long-term savings," according to the report. "Other times sustainability initiatives offer employee and community health benefits that improve financial performance. And when it comes to maintaining an unblemished reputation, it's hard not to invest in sustainability."
One major sustainability development could help hospitals get off the electrical grid entirely, according to Science 2.0: fuel cells powered by natural gas, which would eliminate the energy "middleman." Natural oxide fuel cells would help achieve the 10 percent increase in electricity the nation is projected to need over the next decade, according to the article, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.