The biggest challenge in the project became finding software that would work with the hospital network's unique needs, she says. A free power-save program it had initially tested didn't offer enough flexibility; it needed to allow IT to dictate which pieces of equipment would go into power-save mode and when.
"In clinical areas we needed the computers on 24/7, but in the offices where they leave at night we wanted those in stand-by mode. But we also needed the computers to come on for routine maintenance operations during the nights or on weekends and then go back to sleep. The freeware and other programs we researched didn't allow us to categorize our computers this way."
The solution Partners landed on was Verdiem Surveyor, a product that cost them less to purchase than the first year of savings from installing it, Stoyanov notes. To test it, Stoyanov and a small team established a pilot in the main IT hub using 20 computers. NStar, the local utility company, caught wind of Partners' power-save pilot program and also wanted to see the kind of results the organization would have.
"NStar got in touch with us to see if we were really saving power," says Stoyanov. "They came in and put a wattmeter on each of the 20 computers used in the pilot. So NStar was observing and recording these computers' power usage every morning. It turned out to be a successful experiment because NStar confirmed our energy saving data."
By NStar's calculations, the changes the organization made saved $50-$60 per PC per year in electricity: When installed on the majority of the 30,000 units at Partners that translates into over $1.5 million in savings. Additionally, the organization's energy savings earned it a $200,000 energy rebate from NStar.
"The savings and the rebate more than paid for the software," Stoyanov says. "At the very beginning we didn't know how much we'd save—we just couldn't calculate it. Once we got the data from NStar we knew the more computers and devices we could get onto the program the larger our savings would be, and that made selling the project to leadership easy."
With only so many capital dollars available to pursue an organization's objectives, often clinical projects take precedence over operational ones, and researching and investing in energy conservation may get pushed to the back burner. However, the hospitals and health systems that do opt to make energy-saving upgrades, be it through capital budget allocations, philanthropic donations, grants, or loans, are finding there's an environmental and financial return that make these efforts a smart decision.
This article appears in the January/February 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.