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Hospital Sustainability Gets Shot in the Arm: 80% Now Expected to Consider Sustainable Product Purchasing

October 6, 2014
by Erol Odabasi

It’s that time of year: vaccine season — your local hospital is probably already advertising free flu shots. But this fall, something’s different. If your provider is like the 300 global healthcare professionals my company, Johnson & Johnson, and Harris Poll recently surveyed, chances are your hospital has “gone green” — 80 percent of global respondents now expect their hospitals will consider sustainability when purchasing products within the next two years. Sustainability Purchasing on the Rise


Sustainability in the healthcare space has been on the rise for some time and, according to the new study, 54 percent of healthcare professionals across six countries (United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Brazil and Japan) now report that their hospital already incorporates sustainability into its purchasing decisions. This means that, in addition to price, quality, and outcomes, a majority of healthcare purchasers are also evaluating products based on environmental criteria, and that they are looking for products that are more energy-efficient, free of materials of concern such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and have a lower environmental impact after use.

Why the anticipated boom? I believe new and continued collaborations among suppliers, Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs) and healthcare providers to provide standardized tools has given hospitals the “shot in the arm” they need to prioritize Environmental Purchasing Policies (EPPs). While sustainability was once seen as “nice to have,” organizations such as Practice Greenhealth and the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council have helped hospitals see the business case for sustainability, and our survey found that global healthcare professionals now associate real, tangible benefits with purchasing responsibly made products, including:

  • Help protect hospital staff (78 percent)
  • Make overall good financial sense (69 percent),
  • Serve as an important factor for patients when choosing a hospital (60 percent), and
  • Improve health outcomes (55 percent).

This news is great for the organizations that have championed the development and purchase of sustainable products, but it also poses new challenges. To sustain and even increase the adoption of EPPs, we must increase the availability of environmentally responsible products to match growing demands and help decision-makers prove the benefits of sustainability.

In the past several years, companies like Sterilmed, BD and Kimberly-Clark have worked hard to increase their sustainable product pipelines, yet global healthcare professionals report cost (80 percent) and availability (69 percent) as major barriers to purchasing more of these products. At Johnson & Johnson, we are working to apply lifecycle thinking across our entire company, and have instituted new standards for assessing new products and packaging against environmental criteria. Our Earthwards® approach has also recognized sustainability improvements for more than 55 products across our Johnson & Johnson portfolio, and we are working to address another interesting finding from the Harris Poll: nearly all (92 percent) of U.S. healthcare professionals want manufacturers to provide more information about the sustainable benefits of medical products.

Helping hospitals prove the benefits of sustainability may sound easy, but the truth is 82 percent of global respondents still believe the return on investment (ROI) for sustainability initiatives is not always measurable in financial terms, and only 33 percent said their hospitals track the ROI of sustainable products.

When it comes to purchasing medical devices, products and services, there are often costs beyond the price, such as storage, maintenance, and disposal costs that are frequently overlooked when calculating ROI. This means hospitals may unknowingly be paying more in the long term for a product with a lower sales cost, and new tools are required to evaluate and educate providers about the lifecycle costs of a medical device. Toward this end, I am proud to join leading suppliers, GPOs, and healthcare providers to contribute to Practice Greenhealth’s new Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Framework, which is scheduled to be released in 2015.

With these tools and a growing commitment from medical product manufacturers, it is my hope healthcare will rise to meet its own expectations. A 50 percent increase in sustainable purchasing would have tremendous implications for the health of patients, the environment, and hospitals’ bottom lines. If it takes a shot in the arm to get it done, I’ll be first in line.

Erol Odabasi is the Director of Sustainability for Johnson & Johnson’s Medical Device & Diagnostics sector where he has leadership responsibility for the global sustainability strategy in alignment with Johnson & Johnson's Healthy Future 2015 Goals. In this role, his…[Read more about Erol Odabasi]


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