Going Green

The importance of waste reduction, utilization management and sustainability

We have all been duped by fads that look good on paper, but never seem to pan out in the harsh reality of daylight. However, “Going Green” doesn’t fit into to this classification. It has been estimated by a recent study performed by the Commonwealth Fund that $5.4 billion over five years ($15 billion over 10 years) can be saved by all U.S. hospitals if they establish, promote and institutionalize “green” best practices. Considering the financial impact of these savings, “Going Green” isn’t just a catchy phase; it is becoming a mission critical supply chain imperative.

I see supply chain management as a gatekeeper, monitor and facilitator of their piece of their hospital’s environmental pie, since waste reduction, utilization management and sustainability are all within a supply chain manager’s scope of influence. The Commonwealth Fund study estimates that single-use device reprocessing/reuse alone can save U.S. hospitals billions of dollars over a 10-year period. One hospital in the Commonwealth Fund study achieved $12 in savings per procedure by reprocessing and reuse of some single-use medical devices in their operating room packs. If U.S. hospitals adopted just this one “Green” idea, it is projected they can save $2.7 billion over five years.

Another amazing finding of the study was that it was estimated that $22.22 per operating procedure could be saved by eliminating unused devices in operating room packs. I know operating packs are a top concern of every supply chain professional, but are we really optimizing this area of our responsibility? In our own utilization management practice we rarely find a hospital, system or IDN that has squeezed the last dollar out of this commodity group.

We also need to streamline our waste disposal in supply, processing and distribution by eliminating mixing medical waste with trash. We also need to aggressively recycle, reuse or donate unwanted supplies and equipment and reduce the millions of pounds of plastics and packaging that enter our hospital each year. Terumo is one company that has gotten the “Green” message. They have reduced the amount of plastic in their syringes to the bare minimum – 27.3 percent less material than their nearest competitor. This is a trend that’s worth watching and championing, since every ounce that healthcare manufacturers can reduce in their products and packaging can mean a significant reduction in your infectious and solid waste disposal cost in your hospital.

These aren’t new “Green” ideas I have shared with you in this commentary, but the magnitude of the potential savings that I have described from the Commonwealth Fund study should get your attention. There is now an incentive, with healthcare reform ramping up, for supply chain managers to take a leadership position in “Going Green” at your healthcare organizations. The reason I say this is because you control or can influence many of the cost and quality drivers that can create sustainability and can also make a financial impact on your hospital, system or IDN’s bottom line. “Going Green” isn’t just about reducing your healthcare organization’s impact or footprint on the environment any longer; it’s really about survival of the fittest!

About the Author

Robert T. Yokl
Robert T. Yokl is president and chief value strategist of Strategic Value Analysis® In Healthcare, which is the acknowledged healthcare authority in value analysis and utilization management. Yokl has nearly 38 years of experience as a healthcare materials manager and supply chain consultant, and also is the co-creator of the new Utilizer® Dashboard that moves beyond price for even deeper and broader utilization savings. For more information, visit www.strategicva.com. For questions or comments, e-mail Yokl at bobpres@strategicva.com.