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Healthcare Heavyweights Back IT Purchasing Standards

<p>Kaiser Permanente, Catholic Healthcare West, supply chain solutions provider Broadlane and the performance-oriented hospital group Premier are endorsing&nbsp; environmental standards for purchasing and managing IT equipment used in their industry.</p>

Kaiser Permanente, Catholic Healthcare West, supply chain solutions provider Broadlane and the performance-oriented hospital group Premier are endorsing environmental standards for purchasing and managing IT equipment used in their industry.

The healthcare giants said this week that they are throwing their weight behind the Center for Environmental Health's guidelines for environmentally preferable IT purchasing and management.

They made their announcement at the CleanMed conference in Baltimore. It was the third major development in a week about efforts within the healthcare industry to improve its environmental responsibility. Medical facilities, practices and purchasing have come under scrutiny as concerns mount about the rising cost of healthcare, the quality of the care delivered and patient and worker environment.

{related_content}The first announcement came from Kaiser, which now includes environmental data about products among its considerations for purchasing medical goods. The largest HMO in the U.S. is requiring all suppliers to report the data on Sustainability Scorecards, which Kaiser tallies and then takes into account -- along with factors such as product performance, efficiency and cost -- when deciding what medical supplies and equipment to buy. Kaiser's new practice covers a $1 billion supply chain for medical goods that range from bandages and gauze to MRIs.

Practice Greenhealth announced its Greening the OR Initiative on Tuesday and catalogued a long list of practices that require "green interventions."  The organization said operating rooms generate as much as a third of the waste in hospitals. Typically, half of operating room budgets end up in the trash because the money goes toward supplies that are "thrown out, being used once or not at all during procedures, even though re-use may be an option," said Bob Jarboe, the group's executive vice president of business development. The organization is coordinating a year-long project to develop best practices for ORs.

The Center for Environmental Health guidelines for procurement of electronics call for hospitals and healthcare facilities to:

  • Practice environmentally-preferable electronic purchasing. Favorable product characteristics include Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool registration, energy efficiency labels or data, halogen-free goods and manufacturer take-back programs.
  • Responsibly use electronics by taking steps to minimize energy and extend the products' lifespan.
  • Ensure proper disposal of equipment through E-Steward certified recyclers.
  • Notify suppliers of policies and practices for purchasing environmentally preferred electronics.

In announcing the endorsements of its guidelines -- and seeking further industry support -- the Center for Environmental Health praised Kaiser and Catholic Healthcare West for their longstanding sustainability efforts, which include robust programs for IT procurement as well as data and medical record management.

Kaiser was the first healthcare system to require that its computers and software be EPEAT-registered. The organization made the commitment in 2006 and since then has bought 60,239 desktop computers, 66,470 monitors and 8,775 EPEAT-registered notebook computers. Kaiser says it has decreased energy use by 55.2 million kilowatt-hours through the purchases and saved $4,784,598.

Catholic Healthcare West serves 22 million people in Arizona, Callfornia and Nevada through 41 hospitals, 45 clinics and nine trauma centers. The organization says its endorsement of the guidelines for electronics procurement formalizes its commitment to the principles. Last year, 99.4 percent of the 6,400 PCs CHW purchased met EPEAT's Gold standard, the highest of the system's three registration levels.

Broadlane and Premier have strong records of providing environmentally preferred products to large client bases. The leverage the organizations have in driving further acceptance of electronics procurement standards is considerable as their reach extends upward to product suppliers in addition to outward to clients.

Broadlane, whose specialty is healthcare cost management, is a key Kaiser supplier. It is expected to roll out the Sustainability Scorecard among its other clients for medical products, a move that can influence a more than $14 billion supply chain. Overall, it serves more than 1,100 acute-care hospitals and 50,000 non-acute-care facilities.

Premier is a healthcare performance improvement alliance for more than 2,300 not-for-profit hospitals and health systems. Its influence touches more than 66,000 healthcare sites in addition to those of Catholic Healthcare West. Premier was an early adopter of EPEAT for computer procurement and an early partner in the nonprofit Basel Action Network’s e-Steward Enterprises.

The Center for Environmental Health says that it's critical for hospitals to adopt strong electronics procurement standards as they will need to purchase more equipment to keep in step with the movement toward electronic medical records systems. About $20 billion in federal stimulus money is for fostering adoption of the records systems by hospitals and medical practices.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Todd Ehlers.


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