A healthy shade of green

By Dodge Communications (not verified) on May 13th, 2010

“Going green” can be simple…sometimes. It’s easy enough to buy locally farmed food or plant a garden. However, an eco-friendly philosophy can be a bit hazier in a complex field like healthcare. A hospital or practice needs sterile equipment, water and energy–and a lot of it. These organizations also naturally generate waste–and a lot of it. So how can you help your customers embrace green initiative without causing concern it will compromise their level of care or overhaul their entire routine? And, how can vendors benefit? Going green Most healthcare organizations are intimidated by eco-friendly practices that seem too expensive and time-intensive to implement. However, there are a few top ways for you to help your customers “go green” without breaking their budget and work flow. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Save energy; product initiative. Hospitals and practices can have hundreds if not thousands of florescent or incandescent bulbs, and switching to energy-saving LED bulbs can save these businesses a considerable amount of energy cost throughout the year. These products are also sold at a premium and are considered worth the investment because they last up to three times as long as traditional bulbs, offering companies long-term savings. If you produce medical devices, assess the current market and see where you can improve your product to be more energy-efficient. If your device currently out-performs competitive products, consider branding your product with an environmentally conscious spin.
  2. Reduce waste; recyclable materials. According to a recent research analysis by Johns Hopkins, hospitals are the second largest producers of waste behind the food industry in the United States. It is also estimated that the industry accrues 4 billion pounds of waste each year.  Most hospitals and practices are not cognizant of how much waste its facility amasses daily, much less annually. Syringes, blue wrap and packaging are just three examples of daily waste that can be easily recycled, making this one of the most effective and easiest ways for healthcare businesses to show green initiative. Are your products recyclable? Do you educate your customers on how to recycle your product and how much it can lower their organization’s carbon footprint?
  3. Be aware; eco-savvy goods. Providers want to make smart purchasing decisions. Be a resource for your customers by being aware of your product’s environmental benefits – whether direct or indirect. From refurbished healthcare tools to technology that reduces paper use to sterilization equipment that uses steam instead of chemicals, suppliers and vendors need to actively work to meet greener standards. When reducing a facility’s carbon footprint, every little bit counts, so see how you can position your company as the greener choice.

Many organizations are already implementing several changes that indirectly initiate a positive effect on the environment such as converting to EHR systems to meet HITECH requirements. This transition means going paperless, which is a giant, environmentally conscious step in the right direction. Meaningful use incentive payments may be the primary influence of this change, but don’t hesitate to offer your customers insight into the sustainable benefits as well. Additionally, this transition often involves enhancing IT infrastructure with several new computers, outlets or even servers to meet these standards. Provide your customers with helpful green suggestions that complement this process such as installing wiring that reduces energy costs and sleep-mode-ready power converters for equipment that isn’t always in use.    Benefits vs. cost I’ve often heard “going green” referred to as a trend. However, unlike beanie babies and slap bracelets, green initiatives can help hospitals and physician practices save significant amounts of money. According to the Johns Hopkins study, Banner Health in Phoenix saved nearly $1.5 million in 12 months from reprocessing operating room supplies such as compression sleeves, open but unused devices, pulse oximeters and more. There is also quite a bit of information out there that leads us to believe technology installations and upgrades will lead to a significant ROI, not to mention improved patient care. Even for companies that can only afford to slowly implement green practices, eco-savvy initiatives are a perfect avenue through which you and your clients can develop strategic marketing and PR campaigns that promote a positive external image.  Send out a press release, begin a blog that tracks your progress and look for ways to partner with your customers in ways that position you both as innovators in the industry. This may be an excellent chance for a co-branding marketing platform or upcoming panel opportunities. By using sustainable materials, cutting back on chemicals and adopting EHRs, a provider shows its patients and the general consumer that it cares about improved health and safety – the backbone of the green movement as well as the healthcare industry. And, by helping providers with these transitions, you show your customers that you are paying attention to these needs.