Sustainability efforts save hospitals millions

Sustainability initiatives helped 370 hospitals lower costs and improve patient health, according to the first Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) report.

The initiative involves 13 sponsoring health systems comprising more than 500 hospitals and three not-for-profit organizations.

The sponsoring systems include Tenet, Dignity Health, HCA,  Advocate Health Care and Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser Permanente has long made environmental stewardship part of its core values and has reaped $26 million in annual savings with its environmentally preferable purchasing program.

Under the HHI program, participating hospitals implemented at least one of six designated interventions, known as challenge areas, and reported their progress.

For instance, of the 143 hospitals enrolled in the Engaged Leadership challenge, 94 percent appointed a sustainability executive "owner" and almost 94 percent established an environmental mission statement, guiding principle or charter.

The 172 hospitals that reported data for the Less Waste challenge recycled more 50 million pounds of materials. To put that in perspective, the Practice Greenhealth 2013 Sustainability Benchmark Report found hospitals and health systems produce an average of 30.9 pounds of waste per staffed bed per day, according to the HHI.

Moreover, 185 hospitals saved more than $32 million in 2012 thanks to single-use medical device reprocessing. In fact, reprocessing single-use devices is an "overlooked" area for savings opportunities that could improve costs by up to 40 percent, according to a report released last week by Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group.

The HHI report highlighted success enjoyed by Maryland's Bon Secours Health System. Bon Secours' St. Francis Medical Center reduced energy use by more than 20 percent, earned $150,000 in energy rebates and achieved $850,000 in cost savings, thanks in part to a new energy task force, an internal energy policy and a communication campaign for employees and leadership.

While some hospitals worry about the costs of green initiatives, a December 2012 Commonwealth Fund report found that if healthcare organizations adopted sustainability practices, industry savings could total $5.4 billion over five years and more than $15 billion in 10 years, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more:
- here's the announcement
- check out the report (.pdf)