5 Ways Green Surgical Teams Save Hospitals Money

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , February 24, 2011

"It is estimated that a 1,000-bed hospital could save, for example, $175,000 per year and reduce waste by 34,000 pounds if they used reusable sharps containers instead of disposable ones."

4. Energy Consumption Management.

With better management of energy use by replacing older lighting, air-conditioning, water chilling, and pumping systems with more efficient systems, New York-Presbyterian Hospital expects to save $1.77 million a year. Makary and his co-authors say that energy-intensive medical equipment, special lighting needs, 24-hour operating cycles and other energy needs may consume 25% of a hospital's operating costs.

Surgical practices, however, "could save between 25% and 45%" of their energy costs with energy efficient programs. Solar lighting, photovoltaic systems come with potential tax advantages. Cogeneration systems and more efficient lighting systems as well as better heating, venting and air-conditioning system designs may add to savings.

5. Pharmaceutical Waste Management

With increasing evidence that pharmaceutical products such as antibiotics, corticosteroids, hormones, and other drugs are contaminating drinking water, many public health officials are concerned over the long-range impact of these compounds on human health.

Makary and co-authors aren't specific about what hospitals should do to avoid adding to the problem, but they say pharmacies and waste management services in hospitals should develop guidelines for correct disposal of pharmaceutical waste and provide education to surgical staff.

In conclusion, they wrote, "the field of surgery represents a high-yield area for which green practices can be implemented, often with associated cost savings...As physicians we share a common desire to deliver the highest possible quality care to our patients directly and indirectly. This goal should guide our efforts as we seek ways to improve public health and sustainability through green initiatives.

Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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