Sustainability in Health Care: How to Better Reach Your Goals
Sixty years ago, it accounted for 5% of the country’s economy, according to a Brookings Institute study.
Today? It’s more than three times that amount, uniquely positioning the health care industry to have a major influence in markets as well as people’s lives, health and well-being.
But in an industry where most decisions are patient-centric, what does that far-reaching impact mean for the environment in the communities it serves?
This is what researchers have found: The U.S. health care system contributes 10% of the nation’s carbon emissions and 9% of harmful non-greenhouse gas pollutants, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. And its share of greenhouse gas emissions increased 30% between 2006 and 2016.
Stats like these have propelled a growing number of health care organizations nationwide to spring into action and take steps to reduce their own waste and prevent pollution. But if you’re asking yourself where to begin when creating your organization’s sustainability journey, you’re not alone.
Keep reading to learn more about the steps you can take today to establish and reach sustainability goals, no matter where you are in your energy transition.
Three easy steps
On its surface, sustainability in health care is a broad topic that can take on different meanings for every health care organization.
While most people automatically associate sustainability with responsible energy use, there’s also a host of other benefits that can impact patient care, including significant cost reductions, cutting edge innovation and more.
That makes sustainability less of a buzzword for health care organizations and more of a priority for improving on patient care and better reaching your operational goals.
We’ll show you how to get there in three easy steps.
Step 1: Conduct an energy audit
Implementing sustainability initiatives doesn’t have to start with huge, sweeping overhauls of your existing energy systems. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a look at your existing operations and finding opportunities for improvement.
Consider this scenario:
A hospital system expanded its emergency department to increase patient throughput, complete with a new landing pad for the hospital’s medical transport helicopter. The new landing pad is close to the emergency room’s doors and, coincidentally, the HVAC system.
On the surface, this seems to be the best option for patient care. However, a sustainable energy audit showed that every time the helicopter takes off or lands, the exhaust from the motors is drawn into the HVAC system, potentially spreading irritating and harmful exhaust fumes.
A comprehensive energy audit is the best way to help avoid situations like these. Energy audits help to ensure you’re building your operations on a firm foundation that is guided by the current status of your equipment, efficiencies, projected maintenance costs and more.
Sustainability audits are both specific and necessary, and health care organizations should consider conducting two electrical and mechanical audits: one for a specific building and another for the overall campus.
While this may seem like a lot, the information from all angles helps to better inform your sustainability plan.
Step 2: Create a strategy – and then spread the word
So, you’ve conducted an energy audit for your health care building and campus.
Now it’s time to build on that audit by creating a comprehensive strategy.
The overarching goal of your sustainability journey is to move toward a more efficient use of energy as well as the mitigation of natural resources, which will ultimately help provide better care for patients, promote a healthier work environment for staff and positively impact the environment in surrounding communities.
That’s why now is the perfect time to identify possible equipment replacements, adjust your energy control measures and gather support from existing and/or new supply chain participants.
But you don’t have to do it alone.
Many health care organizations collaborate with energy advisors on their sustainability journey. In doing so, you’ll receive the much-needed support and guidance you need with defining goals, project design and implementation and measurement/verification for reporting purposes.
And once you’ve successfully created a strategy that is customized to your energy audit and organization’s goals, be sure to spread the word both inside and outside your organization. In doing so, you’re helping to build morale and support for sustainability initiatives within your organization, establish a connection between patient care and sustainability and create new ways for your campus to engage and connect with local residents and communities.
Step 3: Hire the right support staff
Your energy audit is completed, strategies have been developed, a sustainability plan has been laid out and you’ve broadcast your sustainability goals. You’ve picked up speed in your sustainability journey and are growing confident that you’re moving in the right direction.
Now, how can you keep the momentum not just for today but for years to come?
Technological breakthroughs in energy, efficiency and equipment happen quickly. So do state and federal legislation changes, which can quickly impact markets.
The best way to stay on top of these changes is by hiring the right sustainability director/manager and team that is devoted to your sustainability journey. The right sustainable-focused team can help you stay ahead of impending climate legislation, create a culture of sustainability throughout your organization and continue to find ways to better integrate sustainability into your overall operations and practices.
In other words, the right sustainability team can help make sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit and complement one another, and they’ll have the necessary experience to successfully guide the design, construction, implementation, training, measuring, monitoring and maintenance of your projects.
It’s time to get started
Achieving sustainability goals in the health care industry may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Even the slightest move toward more efficient use of resources is a move in the right direction and can positively impact your patient experience.
The shift can be easier than you think.
Contact us today, and we’ll explore solutions and options designed to help you start your sustainability journey.