Greening up the supply chain
Healthcare heavyweights back use of initiative
Six large healthcare systems are backing an initiative to significantly advance the use of green business practices by hospitals. The effort, called the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, has initial support from Advocate Health Care, Oak Brook, Ill.; Catholic Healthcare West, San Francisco; HCA, Nashville; Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif.; MedStar Health, Columbia, Md.; and Partners HealthCare System, Boston. The six systems, which together own about 260 hospitals, put up an unspecified amount of seed money to launch the initiative. But the group—whose primary goals are moving suppliers toward the production of greener products and services and reducing the costs of those goods—acknowledged that the effort would succeed only if it gains support from other hospitals and healthcare systems.
“We’re a big whopper of a healthcare system,” said Robert Gotto, executive director, procurement and supply with Kaiser Permanente. “We’ll spend about $14.1 billion on purchasing this year, but if you look at it, we’re just 2% to 3% of the U.S. healthcare market, where Wal-Mart is 40% of their market share in the U.S. So we really need that collaboration to move the market.”
Unveiled last week during the CleanMed conference in Baltimore, the effort lays out a broad preliminary plan for engaging chief hospital executives in environmental policy development, setting costs-reduction targets and standards for product contents, and reducing energy use and generated waste.
The initiative follows several earlier efforts to green portions of the healthcare supply chain. They include a 1998 agreement between the American Hospital Association and the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate mercury from the supply chain and the creation last year of the Hospital Energy Alliance—a coalition of nine healthcare systems that committed to advancing hospitals’ adoption of renewable energy technology.
Gary Cohen, president of Health Care Without Harm—which along with Practice Greenhealth and the Center for Health Design helped developed the project—said the initiative seeks to rapidly build on lessons learned from those earlier efforts.
“ The difference now is the scale on which we’ll work with group purchasing