Initiative lets hospitals collaborate on ‘challenges’
The number of hospitals signed on to the Healthier Hospitals Initiative has grown to more than 700 from 500 at its launch in April, and powerhouses such as the Cleveland Clinic have joined. But participants say the big news is an unprecedented level of collaboration among highly competitive organizations.
Participants have the option of collaborating on “challenges” in six categories: engaged leadership, more healthful food, leaner energy, less waste, safer chemicals and “smarter” purchasing.
The Cleveland Clinic’s purchasing decisions are generating community wealth and stabilizing neighborhoods, Christina Vernon, the system’s executive sustainability officer, said during a July 24 event at the White House sponsored by the White House Council on Environment Quality. “We are deliberately diverting dollars in our supply chain to support businesses that are already here, to attract businesses we need and to build new businesses,” Vernon said.
The national effort sometimes combines with some local efforts. In Boston, John Messervy, director of capital and facilities planning at Partners HealthCare System, is serving as
national chairman of Healthier Hospitals, while Gary Gottlieb, Partners’ president and CEO, is serving on the Boston Green Ribbon Commission along with Kate Walsh, president and CEO of the Boston Medical Center.
The Boston panel, which promotes more efficient and cleaner energy policies, includes people from several industries, with Gottlieb and Walsh representing “a point of a wedge for their sector,” said Paul Lipke, a commission adviser as well as an energy and green buildings senior adviser for Health Care Without Harm—one of the founding organizations of Healthier Hospitals.
Although many organizations have been working on energy issues individually, Lipke said collaborating has led to shared learning, aggregated data and leveraged purchasing power that will lead to quicker results. “This is a big problem and they recognize it’s not going to be possible to solve it individually,” Lipke said. “They can learn from each other, and this is done even as they try to steal patients and physicians from each other.”
Still, progress can be elusive. Messervy said during the event that he can be up on the roof working on energy conservation projects as medical equipment comes through the door that will wipe out any gains he’s able to achieve. But he added that Partners recently had to replace an $800,000 hematology device and decided to go with the product that was calculated to use 22% less energy than the other finalist.
“If we multiply that across the literally thousands pieces of clinical equipment we’re using, it will have a significant impact on the energy we’re using,” Messervy said in an interview. He added that it’s estimated that medical devices account for up to 25% of the healthcare industry’s annual $8 billion electricity bill.