Researchers at Johns Hopkins recently found that implementing eco-friendly practices in hospitals and operating rooms can reduce health care costs. Since the amount of waste and energy consumption generated from hospitals is so massive, second only to the food industry as far as waste goes, the medical industry could make a huge impact on our overall carbon footprint.
The study revealed that hospitals produce over 4 billion pounds of waste per year, including opened sterilized equipment that is never used, inefficient overhead lights, and red bags that are labeled as medical waste with harmless trash that could be disposed of much more cheaply. By separating waste more efficiently, researchers believe this volume of waste could be reduced by 30 percent. Among other strategies to implement environmentally friendly practices in operating rooms and hospital facilities, health care costs can drastically be reduced without posing any [much feared] patient safety risks.
“There are many strategies that don’t add risk to patients but allow hospitals to cut waste and reduce their carbon footprints,”says study leader Martin A. Makary, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “If we’re going to get serious as a country about being environmentally conscious, we need to look at our biggest institutions. When an individual decides to recycle or dispose of waste differently, it has an impact. But when a hospital decides as an organization to go green, the impact is massive.”
The team of researchers emphasizes that there are many ways to be green without compromising patient safety. One example is a medical center’s system of making clear plastic bags more readily available in surgery preparation by replacing them with red bags just before the patient is wheeled into the operating room when most red-bag waste is actually generated. Along with washing and reusing surgical scrubs and jackets, these changes reduced the facility’s medical waste volumes by 50 percent over seven years.
This is just another great example of how big industries can reduce their carbon footprint in a way that is both profitable AND easy without compromising the quality of the end result-in this case, patient safety.
Johns Hopkins Medicine website: www.hopkinsmedicine.org