ORs: Next Target for Hospital Sustainability

Practice Greenhealth unveils path to greener, more cost-effective operating rooms.

A sweeping and prescriptive path to green the nations operating rooms is underway by Practice Greenhealth, the nations leading membership and networking organization for institutions in healthcare that have made a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices.

The "Greening the OR Initiative" is examining a range of interventions that will not only reduce the environmental impact of the OR, but also potentially reduce cost, increase quality and improve worker or patient safety. Among the areas for "green" interventions in the operating room are the following:

-- Single-Use Device (SUD) Reprocessing

-- Reusable vs. Disposables: Gowns, Surgical Drapes, Basins and other Reusables

-- OR Kit Formulation

-- Waste Anesthetic Gas Scavenging Systems

-- Fluid Waste Management Systems

-- Energy Use/Lighting & Thermal Comfort

-- Regulated Medical Waste (RMW) Minimization/Segregation

-- Substitution of Reusable Hard Cases for Blue Sterile Wrap

-- Recycling of Medical Plastics

-- Laser Safety/ Smoke Evacuation

-- Green Cleaning/Proper Disinfection in a Surgical Setting

-- Medical Equipment and Supplies Donation

Over the next year, a collaborative group of forward-thinking hospitals, healthcare industry leaders, manufacturers and vendors, and sponsors participating in the Greening the OR Initiative, will participate in the development of a series of Greening the OR Best Practices Guidance Documents, including case studies and implementation recommendations addressing these and other related areas.

Operating rooms are some of the most resource-intensive and waste generating places in a hospital, generating between 20 percent and 30 percent of a facilitys waste. Much of that waste is disposed of as regulated medical waste, which costs 10 to 15 times more in disposal fees than regular waste. Half of budgets for operating rooms are generally spent on supplies that are thrown out, being used once or not at all during procedures, even though re-use may be an option. Likewise, it is a huge cost-center for materials, devices and supplies.

"For most hospitals, the benefits of "going green" in the operating room are considerable: reductions in energy and water use, a reduction in staff exposure to toxic chemicals, increased patient and staff safety, and a much-reduced impact on the environment," said Bob Jarboe, executive vice president of business development for Practice Greenhealth.

Sponsoring organizations for the initiative are Ascent Healthcare Solutions, HCA and SRI Surgical.