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Global Demand for Sustainable Health Care Driving “Greener” Products & Guidelines

October 05, 2012

At a recent 2012 CleanMed Europe Conference, a research study was showcased revealing that increased global demand for more sustainable health care is driving the creation of “greener” products and purchasing guidelines among health care institutions. It’s one of several key findings from a new white paper, commissioned by Johnson & Johnson, that was unveiled to more than 400 hospital procurement officials and health care industry leaders from more than 15 countries. The white paper can be accessed at www.earthwards.com.

Johnson & Johnson commissioned interviews with health care experts and thought leaders to produce the white paper, The Growing Importance of More Sustainable Products in the Global Health Care Industry, to further probe the findings from its research conducted earlier this year. That global research offered some eye-opening statistics:

• More than half (54 percent) of hospitals say green attributes are very important in their purchasing decisions;
• The majority (85 percent) of hospitals rate being free of heavy metals and latex, end-of-life solutions and energy efficiency as important attributes;
• More than one-third (35 percent) of hospitals switched suppliers due to additional green/ sustainable product offerings; and,
• Not surprisingly, 40 percent of hospitals expect their future RFPs to include questions/criteria regarding green attributes of products.

These data also reflect the surging interest in guidelines to inform “greener” purchasing decisions. According to expert interviews, health care leaders such as Kaiser Permanente have created sustainability scorecards which require suppliers to provide environmental information about products. Other institutions have adopted Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP) programs to achieve similar goals.

Accordingly, more than 90 percent of research respondents that have an EPP program feel it is important in driving purchasing decisions. Also, those most interested in purchasing more sustainable health care products are purchasing and materials managers (42 percent) followed by C-suite executives (21 percent).

Indeed, experts cited the proliferation of sustainability in nearly all aspects of health care purchasing. According to Practice Greenhealth , a U.S.-based not-for-profit that encourages environmental best practices in health care, emerging areas for sustainable purchasing include energy-efficiency and sustainable energy, waste reduction (particularly packaging and styrofoam), elimination of halogenated flame retardants and other toxic chemicals and sourcing local, healthier food.

Experts also noted that “greener” decision making will be balanced with a strong focus on the mission of treating patients and caring for their well-being and safety. Accordingly, Amerinet, HealthTrust, MedAssets, Novation and Premier, the five largest GPOs that secure a combined $135 billion in medical products each year, recently announced their endorsement of a standardized list of questions suppliers will need to answer regarding the impact their products have on human health and the environment.

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