Sustainable hospitals could save industry $15B

Despite some hospitals' thinking that it will cost more to undertake green initiatives, a recent 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.

Anne-Marie J. Audet, vice president of Health Care Quality and Efficiency at the Commonwealth Fund, said on a webinar last week that each participant in the Healthier Hospitals Initiative saw "significant savings."

"Even though there was an investment to reach sustainability, the program reaped a benefit and return on investment," Audet said.

Healthcare creates 6,600 tons of waste every day, contributing to landfill, according to the report published last month. Oftentimes, hospitals throw nonhazardous waste into red bags (medical waste containers), which costs 20 times more than solid-waste processing. However, the Environmental Protection Agency found that 85 percent of waste is nonhazardous and could be disposed of differently.

Report lead author Susan Kaplan, research assistant professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago's school of public health, told Crain's Waste & Recycling News that simply educating employees on disposing medical waste and solid waste could help organizations realize savings.

Kaplan noted that in addition to better waste segregation, recycling and switching to reprocessed devices in the operating room results in savings.

For instance, Inova Health System, a five-hospital nonprofit system in Northern Virginia, saved more than $1 million by reprocessing and more than a quarter of a million in regulating medical waste.

The report found that hospitals saved anywhere from $0.50 per patient per day to more than $2.50, while operating room changes resulted in savings of up to $57 per operation.

For more information:
- here's the webinar
- see the Commonwealth Fund report (.pdf)
- check out the Inova presentation (.pdf)
- see the Crain's Waste & Recycling article
- here's the Healthier Hospitals Initiative website

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