HealthWare Systems Blog

Go Green to Reduce Hospital Waste & Lower Hospital Costs (Part 1 of 2)

Posted on Wednesday, August 9, 2017

There is a dire need to reduce hospital waste.  The U.S. healthcare industry is accountable for 8% of our country’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to a study featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and estimates of its waste production are as high as 5.9 million tons of garbage each year.

Going green is not only good for the environment, but also for your healthcare facility’s bottom line.  Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago project the healthcare industry could save more than $5.4 billion over five years and $15 billion over 10 years by adopting more sustainable practices.

Below is one strategy to consider to help your facility reduce hospital waste and lower hospital costs:

Staff Education

A recent study of surgeries performed at UCSF Medical Center, published in the Journal of Neurosurgery, found that a startling number of packaged surgical supplies were opened but ended up unused and then thrown out after surgery.  The researchers calculated that these wasted medical supplies could cost UCSF $2.9 million dollars a year, and that only accounts for the waste from one department.

Providing price transparency for your medical staff can reduce hospital waste and lower hospital costs.

Providing price transparency for your medical staff can reduce hospital waste and lower hospital costs.

You can reduce hospital waste by ensuring your medical staff handle their supplies in the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way possible.

To help doctors better gauge their role in hospital spending, the authors of the UCSF study recommend providing them with feedback on the costs of their procedures compared to the costs of their peers’.  This can also motivate doctors to reach a higher level of performance at a lower cost than a colleague or the potential competition.

 

Additionally, they suggest assessing surgeons’ lists of requested instruments on their preference cards before their procedures, eliminating nonessential items, and advising which ones should only be opened as needed (rather than at the start of the procedure) so that they can be saved for future use if unopened.

Many physicians are unaware of the cost of their equipment, but once enlightened, they find ways to use less expensive tools to do the same job.  Canadian hospitals are seeing huge savings using this tactic.  According to the National Post, Toronto Western’s neurosurgeons decreased their spending on disposables by 30% and saved $750,000 in the timespan of four months.

Providing price transparency for your medical staff can pay major dividends, and their economical approach to medical supply use offers the added benefits of lowering patients’ bills and enabling your facility to treat more patients as well.

In next week’s blog, we will offer two more strategies to help you reduce hospital waste and lower hospital costs.

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part blog series.


By Stephanie Salmich