It is well-documented that our modern healthcare system is not economically sustainable.
Mentioned less frequently than other reasons is the cost to simply keep the lights on.
Healthcare facilities consume large amounts (greater than 8%) of the nation's energy and also create close to 8% of its carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Department of Energy Information Agency.
Mounting research shows a parallel between the environment and the very ailments that hospitals manage, such as cancer and respiratory diseases.
In April of 2012, the Healthier Hospitals Initiative was launched to offer hospitals a straightforward method to both improve health and produce savings while providing quality care.
It's a call to action for the entire healthcare industry to support a more sustainable business model, one that addresses health and environmental impacts.
"Hospitals can no longer afford to be out of sync in their day-to-day work of healing and treating and the environmental impact they have in communities across the country," Knox Singleton, chief executive officer of Inova Health System in Falls Church, VA, said in a press release.
"By reducing waste and conserving energy, among other challenges, we cannot only reduce operational costs, we can improve the health of people in our communities before they ever enter a hospital."
Take a Deep Breath
Healthcare organizations that use less energy from cleaner sources can decrease the emissions they discharge and reduce the risk of respiratory illness, in addition to helping their bottom line.
By reducing their environmental impacts, participating hospitals will be protecting the health of their patients, employees and communities.
Many healthcare organizations that have joined the Healthier Hospitals Initiative have improved environmental sustainability and reduced operations costs by making low- or no-cost modifications.
Through adopting the Initiative's Leaner Energy Challenge, healthcare organizations receive guidance and support while striving to decrease energy consumption; improve energy efficiency; invest in cleaner, eco-friendly energy alternatives; and save a drastic amount of money on energy costs.
Healthier Hospitals Initiative challenges hospitals to sign a pledge and commit to one or more of the following six "challenge" areas:
1. Engaged Leadership - "supporting the institutionalization of an organization-wide sustainability initiative."
- Healthier Food - "offer healthier food for staff, patients and visitors."
- Leaner Energy - "reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions."
- Less Waste - "reduce waste and increase recycling."
- Safer Chemicals - "transition to safer chemicals in materials and products."
- Smarter Purchasing - "purchase environmentally preferable products."
Research has revealed that roughly 75 percent of all healthcare costs go towards the treatment of chronic diseases.1 Addressing root causes allows participants to reduce this burden.
To learn more about the Healthier Hospitals Initiative and how healthcare organizations can conserve energy and save money, visit http://www.healthierhospitals.org/. Registration is free to any hospital in the US and Canada.
1. Health Education Advocate.org, "Preventing Chronic Disease is Critical to Controlling Health Care Costs." http://www.healtheducationadvocate.org/
Beth Puliti is a frequent contributor to ADVANCE.