Healthcare Giants Endorse Strong Environmental Standards for Electronic Equipment

May 12, 2010

Baltimore, MD-Kaiser Permanente and Catholic Healthcare West, two leading nonprofit healthcare organizations, today announced their commitment to the nation's strongest environmental standards for purchasing and managing information technology equipment used in their hospitals.

"We are dedicated to being good stewards of the resources entrusted to us, and that includes stewardship of Earth," said Sr. Mary Ellen Leciejewski, Catholic Healthcare West's ecology coordinator. "Over the next 10 years we will be investing $1 billion in information technology at our 40 hospitals. As we make this transition we are committed to ensuring that our practices are safe for our patients, our employees, our communities, and Earth."

The healthcare organizations are endorsing guidelines for environmentally preferable IT purchasing and management developed by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), a nonprofit member of the national Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) coalition. The endorsement is being announced today in conjunction with HCWH's annual CleanMed conference, which serves to accelerate the health care sector's commitment to environmental sustainability and regenerative health.

Under the recent federal stimulus bill, $20 billion is slated to encourage hospitals and medical practices to adopt electronic medical records (EMR) systems, and a recent survey found that 55% of small and mid-sized hospitals have plans to increase their IT spending for such systems. Given this massive shift, CEH sees an urgent need for hospitals to adopt strong environmental and health standards as these two healthcare organizations did when purchasing new equipment and disposing of outdated electronics. The Guidance Document calls for:

  • Environmentally-preferable electronic purchasing, including looking for EPEAT-registration, energy efficiency, halogen-free products, and products from producers with take-back programs;
  • Responsible use of electronics, including extending the life-span and taking steps to minimize energy consumption;
  • Ensuring proper disposal of outdated equipment, including working with E-Steward certified recyclers; and
  • Communicating the preference for safer electronics to suppliers

"Kaiser Permanente has the world's largest civilian electronic health record," said Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser Permanente's vice president for workplace safety and environmental stewardship officer. "We are dedicated to purchasing and managing information technology equipment in a way that is consistent with environmental sustainability and community health."

"Helping our clients select environmentally preferable IT products is a great way to expand the scope of our reach beyond just medical supplies. We're excited to work with CEH to take this next step" says Jennifer Bailey-Jones, Sr. Director, Environmental Sustainability at Broadlane, a healthcare cost-management company based in Dallas. Broadlane is also committed to applying these high standards in contracting with suppliers who manufacture and distribute environmentally sustainable IT products, and suppliers who dispose of IT products.   The standards will help Broadlane clients–more than 1,100 acute-care hospitals and 50,000 non-acute-care facilities–make environmentally informed choices about electronic devices.

Premier, a healthcare performance improvement alliance of more than 2,300 not-for-profit hospitals and health systems, including Catholic Healthcare West, and 66,000 plus other healthcare sites, was among the first companies to adopt the EPEAT tool for computer procurement, as well as join the nonprofit Basel Action Network's "e-Steward Enterprises." E-Stewards certification is offered to electronics recyclers and waste management companies that abide by the strongest environmental and health standards.

"The Premier alliance is proactively working to assist our members to reduce waste and energy consumption by purchasing products and incorporating practices that minimize impact on the environment and reduce their carbon footprint," said Gina Pugliese, RN, vice president of the Premier Safety Institute. "Our endorsement of CEH's guidelines is a logical next step as we work towards our goals."

Both Kaiser Permanente and Catholic Healthcare West manage their obsolete electronic equipment through Redemtech, an e-Stewards certified recycler. Data compiled by the hospitals and by Redemtech on the environmental and cost benefits of their combined commitment to responsible e-waste management shows that, since 2006, the two hospital systems have purchased 336,180 EPEAT gold or silver registered products, and have reused 318,364 units (or 9.8 million pounds) of electronics, while recycling another 387,198 units (6.8 million pounds). The cost savings from the energy efficiency and waste reduction gains in this period amounts to more than $13.5 million.

Given the recent attention to environmental and health problems from e-waste, including a recent CBS 60 Minutes expose and a PBS Frontline report, CEH lauds these 4 leading health care organizations for their commitment. "A call for safer electronics and better e-waste management isn't just good for the environment and human health, it's also good for business," said Sue Chiang, Pollution Prevention Program Director at the Center for Environmental Health, who is moderating a session at CleanMed this week on electronics management for healthcare. "We commend Kaiser Permanente, Catholic Healthcare West, Broadlane and the Premier health alliance for adopting these strong electronics guidelines. As electronic records become the industry standard, this marks a paradigm shift in the way healthcare views their role around electronic purchasing, management and disposal."  

For the Guidance document and more information, see the CEH website.