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Hospital Sustainability Gets Executives' Attention

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, August 13, 2010
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McDonough’s speech was an inspiration for Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, MD, and other hospital officials to create a long-term sustainability program, says Vernon. In recalling the event, she says: “McDonough gave a lecture about sustainability for healthcare and leadership took off with it.”

Key environmental initiatives for Cleveland Clinic were wrapped around specific goals, which at first involved green building and energy conservation projects, and then later waste management, Vernon says. Over the past several years, it has realized more than $4 million in savings.

Directing Sustainability
When planning environmental goals, it is especially important to coordinate that effort through the C-suite.

Several years ago, as Baptist Health South Florida began to implement environmental improvements, George Foyo, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, was assigned to lead the environmental team.
One of the first things he did was to evaluate interest in making environmental changes throughout the hospital.

“Frankly, I was a little bit concerned at the beginning that we would have issues, believing that implementing it on a large system like ours would be challenging. But employees learned to embrace it, to implement sustainability on a consistent basis,” says Foyo.

Foyo says the hospital has initiated waste management and recycling programs, with savings of about a $1 million a year. While the numbers aren’t overly significant for the $2 billion, five-hospital system, the key for Foyo is that the system is on its way to carry out a long-term plan that he says will have definite benefits for the hospital and especially for the patients.

“Green healthcare programs are growing to the recognition that sustainability initiatives can positively impact employee and patient satisfaction,” says Foyo.

With support of leadership and employees, Baptist Health South Florida implemented a green team structure throughout the organization. Coordination is managed through a central steering committee, known as the BHSF Green Team. That committee is composed of executives from each location designed to share learning experiences and set priorities.

 

“We’re looking at the big picture, and aspire to be the benchmark for health systems in the U.S. We figured, if we are so committed, why not be the role model, and we’re working toward that end,” Foyo says.

Keep Tabs with Data
When the Providence Newberg hospital opened in July 2006, it received accolades from federal officials for improving environmental standards. But the hospital’s senior leadership was determined to see how the evolving changes were perceived  not only by employees, but by patients and visitors alike. “There’s a strong link between healthcare environment and the quality of patient care,” says Beam.

In an appraisal of the new facility, a review found a “significant improvement” in attitude by patients, visitors, and staff, according to Beam. Respondents indicated a 75% improvement in patient safety, 68% improvement in individual productivity, 83% increase in a “sense of personal well-being,” and 60% decline in stress.

“There was a very high correlation between the building, the work of its employees, as well as the retention of employees,” Beam says. “Environmental improvements, he says, were also responsible for helping attract “a high level of physicians and clinicians.”

  “There’s no coincidence that facilities that are further along with environmental practices have leadership support and resources allocated for sustainable practices,” says Brown of Practice Greenhealth.

“We’re getting dirty now; it’s under our fingernails,” Brown says of hospitals’ commitment to environmental improvement. “They are serious and doing quality work. It’s much bigger than turning off the lights—it’s retrofitting those and exploring green energy solutions.”

Joe Cantlupe is senior editor for physicians and service lines for HealthLeaders Media. He may be reached at jcantlupe@healthleadersmedia.com.

EPA's Green Building Strategies for Healthcare Facilities
The EPA collaborated with experts to develop green building strategies for healthcare as part of the Building Healthy Hospitals project. The EPA cited case studies by Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute, the Discovery Health Center, and the University of Florida Health Science Center. The strategies are:

  1. Energy Efficiency—Integrated Design and HVAC Systems.  Energy use in healthcare facilities is higher than nearly all other building types. With rising energy costs and climate change concerns, energy efficiency is financially prudent and increasingly expected. Efficiency can be gained from integrated design practices, including systems to control heat and increase efficiency of heating, ventilation and air condition systems.
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