Sustainability trends are bringing about changes for just about every industry, and the healthcare sector is likely experiencing some of the most. From more efficient buildings, to the better use of resources, to streamlined diagnostic and treatment methodologies, sustainability is affecting healthcare in lots of different ways. Hear from Medxcel's CEO and hospital leaders about the role sustainability plays in the healthcare industry.
Wright Alcorn, Vice President Operations
Hospitals are significant consumers of energy and contributors to pollution. That’s why it’s crucial for healthcare facilities to be more sustainable and look for ways to be greener. And it’s not just to save the Earth: The health of patients depends on it. According to many industry publications, the nation’s hospitals create two million tons of waste each year. Pollution from chemicals and other contaminants can exacerbate patients’ illnesses, making them harder (and more costly) to treat and control. With that in mind, it’s important for each hospital to reduce its carbon footprint.
While many think green initiatives are expensive, there are ways to be environmentally friendly that don’t break the bank. And hospitals can actually save money in some cases. Here are four ways that Methodist Hospitals is improving environmental sustainability:
- LED Lighting: At both our Gary and Merrillville campuses, all of our exterior lighting has been upgraded to bright energy-efficient LED lighting.
- Water Metering: Water metering devices on all of our boilers, steam generators, cooling towers, and outdoor irrigation systems reduce utility expenses.
- Elevator Modernization: Using regenerative technology, modern elevators feed energy usually lost during braking back into the building’s internal electrical grid.
- Modern Air Handling Equipment: Methodist began a robust program to replace existing air handling units (AHU) with new energy efficient units.
Mike Argir, CEO
Energy and water efficiency, with the direct benefit of reducing a facility’s carbon footprint, are trending sustainability issues for healthcare leaders. Healthcare is responsible for 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, so hospitals are working to reduce energy and water consumption. Benefits from a financial, environmental and social standpoint include consuming less fuel and water, which reduces operating budgets; releasing fewer pollutants into the environment, which improves air quality and health; and improving the communities where our facilities are located.
Ascension recognizes the positive impact our ministry can have in environmental stewardship. To that end, Ascension is operating healthcare facilities that incorporate Building Automation Systems (BAS) tied to a centralized facility operations data dashboard at each hospital and a Remote Operations Center. This technology allows us to monitor energy and water use as well as temperature, humidity and air changes on a real-time basis to optimize facility performance and comfort.
Through joint efforts, Medxcel has supported Ascension St. Vincent Indiana hospitals in achieving Energy Star certification, representing the top 25% of energy-efficient acute care hospitals in the U.S. In addition, several Indiana hospitals were recognized as Energy to Care award winners by the American Society of Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) for reducing energy consumption.
Greg Johnson, DO, Chief Clinical Integration Officer
At Parkview, sustainability often comes from innovative, yet simple ideas. We strive to improve not only efficiency, but also patient outcomes. The result is higher quality care and lower costs for patients and employers.
Our facilities were designed to boost natural lighting during the day, in combination with a more dimmed atmosphere at night. This design allows us to save electricity and has been shown to aid in the healing process and reduce costly complications, such as delirium in our elderly population.
Like other organizations, Parkview uses the Kanban smart supply chain method to ensure we have enough supplies without overstocking, which leads to waste. The goal is to have the correct amount, when it’s needed, where it’s needed.
A great example can be found in operating rooms, where surgeons’ supply packs have been streamlined to reduce variation. Packs are assembled so that only necessary items will be opened, reducing the need to dispose or re-sterilize supplies. Waste is avoided, costs are lowered and quality is increased.
Alan Kumar, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer
Community Healthcare System
One current trend in healthcare consists of an integrated approach that focuses on prevention, education and extensive outpatient management. The hospitals of Community Healthcare System have adopted collaborative models of care delivery focusing on disease management and prevention to improve the health of our residents, eliminate duplicate testing, and improve efficiency.
This is being done through Population Health Management which appropriately manages patients with advanced chronic conditions, patients with well-managed health concerns as well as healthy populations. Through care coordination and patient engagement, patients gain answers regarding their disease process, a better understanding of treatment options and how to more efficiently and effectively navigate a complex system.
Additionally, through Unity, our private Healthcare Information Exchange, many physicians and health professionals have access to a patient’s complete medical history across multiple Electronic Medical Record systems in one place to deliver more efficient high-quality care and eliminate duplicate testing.
Patients can take an active role in their healthcare by accessing their health information through secure online sources such as MyChart where they can view test results, make an appointment or communicate with their physician. This increased information sharing leads to better outcomes and a healthier community.
Jim Mladucky, Vice President of Design & Construction
Indiana University Health
Healthcare providers throughout the U.S. are working to reduce waste, energy use and to practice good stewardship of natural resources. Owing to their 24/7 operations, hospitals are the fourth largest user of energy in the country and can generate more waste and use more water than some small towns. To offset energy use and better manage waste generated and water used, Indiana University Health is investing in technology, systems and facilities that are environmentally friendly, enhance patient and staff safety, realize financial return and achieve our goal of stewardship and making Indiana a healthier state.
At IU Health, enhanced sustainability efforts across our statewide system are paying off.
- Energy use in IU Health’s 16 hospitals was reduced by 4.5% in the past year. Much of the savings came from installing energy-efficient LED lighting and HVAC systems. The reduced energy consumption removed greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 2,800 cars off the road for a year.
- A commitment by IU Health to design all buildings, including a new Bloomington Hospital, to USGBC LEED energy-efficiency standards, will avoid waste and bring operating efficiencies that will pay dividends over decades.
The wave of sustainability investments by healthcare providers proves that making Indiana a healthier state is not limited to improving clinical outcomes but is also about creating a healthier environment while lowering the operational cost of providing world-class care to patients.
Tim Spisak, Director of Engineering and Maintenance
Franciscan Health Crown Point
Sustainability doesn’t just make sense from an environmental standpoint. It’s good economics as well.
The new Franciscan Health Michigan City hospital was praised as the largest project in the history of the NIPSCO Business Energy Efficiency Program and earned $294,309 in incentives. The energy-efficient construction of the new hospital reflects 3,812,887 kilowatt hours saved annually through energy-saving measures taken during construction. Those measures include the installation of LED lighting and efficient chillers, refrigeration and variable-frequency drives.
Our sustainability efforts also go into existing facilities. Franciscan Health Crown Point hospital has demonstrated the sustainability of natural resources and energy efficiency by implementing LED lighting retrofits, installation of Low E windows, variable frequency drives and a building automation system and converting to efficient air handling units.
The Central Utility Plant serving the campus converted the chiller plant to variable primary flow, eliminating the need for six pumps. The existing cooling tower was repurposed for free cooling that allows the hospital to turn off chillers when the outside temperature is below 40 degrees. The installation of two high-efficiency water tube boilers, combined with the existing boilers, maximize efficiency based on the seasons.
The financial savings that these measures provide help Franciscan devote more resources to caring for our patients.