Healthcare sustainability: The road forward

Healthcare sustainability: The road forward

The Environmental Social Governance (ESG) framework is a perfect fit for healthcare. It aligns neatly with the transformation from sick care to healthcare that many providers are pursuing, addressing critical issues that impact the health and well-being of the entire community.

According to The Commonwealth Fund, healthcare is responsible for as much as 4.6% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. In the U.S., it is closer to 8.5%. Last year, 15% of hospitals joined the White House Health Sector Climate Pledge, while others announced green purchasing initiatives and farm-to-table cafeteria programs. Leading organizations are focusing on the “E,” or environmental aspect, of ESG.

Health systems often start their sustainability journey by addressing their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions – and rightfully so, as these direct and indirect emissions categories are essential. But when categorizing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in the healthcare sector, The Commonwealth Fund indicates emissions from the production and transportation of goods and services (Scope 3) account for more than 80% of overall healthcare emissions. The bottom line? An inclusive view of sustainability and the impact of greenhouse gases that includes all players – inside and outside health systems – is imperative.

Take medical courier or healthcare logistics operations as an example. A typical health system uses six different medical couriers with little coordination or optimization. This unwieldy approach can lead to waste, overlap, and simply driving too many miles.

Quality, or the lack thereof, can also generate waste. An error-prone courier that skips a stop, loses an item or delivers an item at the wrong temperature can lead to another courier being dispatched to help, duplicating emissions. Pharmaceuticals can end up in a landfill because sharing mechanisms do not exist. Equipment may be purchased at one facility while the same machine sits idle at another down the road. Paper documentation, instead of digital, is cumbersome and generates refuse.

Waste and workarounds are pervasive in healthcare. But when budgets are tight, nurses are fed up, and the community needs a better future, is the status quo really sustainable?

Healthcare logistics: Steps to reduce your environmental impact

Here are a few steps for driving down the environmental impact of your medical courier.

1. Evaluate waste. First, assess how much waste is occurring in your courier/logistics network today. Given the number of departments using these services and the expanding healthcare ecosystem, it is probably more than you think. An outside assessment of all activities can be enlightening.

2. Integrate analytics for efficiency. Second, design an efficient network that reduces waste without compromising care. Be sure to look for opportunities to optimize the service using analytics software. Measure the network and rebalance it frequently to ensure it is not providing too much service, or alternatively, too little service, which can lead to excessive use of STAT service to accommodate deliveries that need to be handled as soon as possible.

3. Incorporate fuel-efficient vehicles. Third, does your courier have fuel-efficient and electric vehicles? Fuel efficiency broadly can be a big difference maker. Transitioning from traditional combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles can be transformative. Each electric vehicle can have the annual atmospheric cleaning power of hundreds of mature trees.

Every step toward a greener operation is a step in the right direction because health isn’t just what happens in a doctor’s office or hospital. It’s about the environment around us, and everything people need to live healthy lives.

About the Author

Jake Crampton is the CEO of MedSpeed, the market-leading provider of same-day logistics services to the healthcare industry. MedSpeed recently announced its new electric vehicle initiative, “25 by 25,” which is a commitment to convert 25 percent of the current eligible fleet to electric vehicles (EVs) by the end of 2025. MedSpeed makes other concerted efforts to contribute to the health of the community by reducing the number of miles driven, digitizing paper processes, and helping its customers reduce waste.

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