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Healthcare leaders discuss greening the supply chain, lowering costs

During a White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) conversation on Tuesday, leaders in healthcare and policy discussed the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) to reduce the environmental footprint of hospitals, lower costs and improve overall patient health by including sustainability efforts and initiatives into their business models.

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) is a national campaign to implement a new approach to improving environmental health and sustainability in the healthcare sector. Eleven of the largest U.S. health systems, comprising approximately 500 hospitals with more than $20 billion in purchasing power, worked with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), the Center for Health Design and Practice Greenhealth to create HHI as a guide for hospitals to improve sustainability.

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Among those at Tuesday’s forum, “Greening America’s Hospitals: A White House Discussion on the Healthcare Industry,” were representatives from nationwide healthcare group purchasing organizations (GPOs). They discussed the critical role of the healthcare supply chain in introducing these environmentally sustainable designs.

“I thought it was very productive discussion, and it’s true that the supply chain is an important part of greening the healthcare system,” said Healthcare Supply Chain Association (HSCA) President Curtis Rooney. “What people choose to buy matters and if you can get green products you can really move the market.”

Rooney noted that last year HSCA endorsed the Practice Greenhealth “Standardized Environmental Questions for Medical Products,” which has been used to guide the identification, selection and procurement of environmentally preferable medical products. The tool is a significant part of Practice Greenhealth’s “Greening the Supply Chain Initiative," which the organization launched in 2011 to provide a common set of tools for purchasers, suppliers and manufacturers to ensure that environmentally preferable products are available, cost competitive and of comparable quality.

“It’s primarily important to make sure the patient gets the right and safest product, but this initiative can also save money by aggravating the purchasing. It creates the ability for the prices to be driven down so that these environmentally preferred products can be affordable,” Rooney said.

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Jennifer Waddell, senior clinical manager at Novation, a healthcare supply chain expertise and contracting company, said Tuesday’s discussion “brought to life an issue that is very important.”

“We support legislation around full disclosure of products in technology and using non-toxic products in medical devices,” she said. “We also have to do this in a cost effective manner. A lot of people think environmentally friendly products tend to be more expensive, but with a lot of the products in the medical device market there ends up actually being a savings when you move to some of these measures. Also, energy conservation helps hospitals save money in the long run.”


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