Healthcare News & Insights

Report: Going green could save hospitals billions

For healthcare organizations looking to control costs, becoming more environmentally friendly should help – and that includes implementing more green IT initiatives. 

Though going green and becoming more sustainable can sound like a complex undertaking  for the average healthcare provider, a lot of energy — and money — can be saved just by taking a few basic steps.

According to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund, if every hospital in the country implemented a few key sustainability measures, the health system would save over $5.4 billion in five years. By 10 years, savings would top $15 billion.

For the study, researchers looked at 14 hospitals that had already taken measures to increase sustainability. They found the most cost-effective ways for hospitals to go green were:

1. Reducing waste

The report says that healthcare facilities create 6,660 tons of waste each day. Much of it is placed in the ubiquitous “red bag” medical waste containers — yet 85% of a hospital’s waste is non-hazardous.

And failing to separate waste properly can be costly: Processing hazardous waste can be up to 20 times more expensive than normal waste processing.

The Commonwealth Fund recommends organizations make sure recycling containers are easily accessible in every area, and encourage staff and patients to use them for non-hazardous waste and trash. Also, hospitals can look into greener packaging options, such as reusable hard storage cases for surgical equipment, instead of the blue sterile wrap that’s thrown away after one use.

2. Reducing energy use

Energy usage can suck up between 1% and 3% of a hospital’s operating budget, according to the report — and it’s a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide emissions.

Hospitals can save a lot of money by adjusting the heating and cooling in unoccupied spaces and making energy-efficient upgrades, such as:

  • lighting upgrades
  • occupancy sensors for public areas
  • solar film on windows, and
  • thermostatic valves on radiators/heaters.

Green IT can help, too

In addition to those steps, hospital IT departments can do a lot to reduce their energy consumption. Some green IT tips experts recommend:

  • Use power management tools to turn computers off when they’re not needed
  • Change default print settings — for example, widening margins, printing double-sided and using draft mode
  • Increase the temperature in the server room by a little bit, and
  • Use virtualization to consolidate servers and use less physical hardware

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