If you are serious about going green, get your staff involved. Start with conducting an environment audit of what products you use, how they are discarded, and where there may be unnecessary waste.
Look at the products you use in the office, such as cleaning supplies. Perhaps some of them can be replaced with organic products. Check out biodegradable cleaning products with your local vendor or go to http://www.goodguide.com/ for helpful information. Simple moves, like shifting from bottled water to a water cooler or a filtered water system with biodegradable paper cups, can make an impact. Water-saver fixtures can reduce water consumption as well.
Recycle and cut the waste. Shred paper and recycle those plastic containers. A card scanner for patients' insurance cards can save a ton of paper, and information can be stored on the computer, reducing filing time. Most likely, there are opportunities to scan other documents directly into the computer that save time and reduce the wear and tear on the copy machine. That being said, copiers are a necessity, but refilling ink cartridges reduces disposable waste-as does copying on both sides of the paper and purchasing recycled paper when it is appropriate.
Technology can play an important role in reducing waste. If we communicate via the Internet and store messages on the computer, we save time and money and help the environment. Start reading online, and when you want to share information you've read on the computer, just pass the link on to staff in an e-mail. Another advantage to this form of communication is the ability to electronically track and retrieve information.
Your patients are using e-mail, too, so collect their e-mail address and obtain permission to send them information. Think about the patient education materials that you've been handing to patients that may never make it home. Sending electronic versions of such information makes ecological and practical sense. Lots of reference materials are now available in electronic form, including the Physician's Desk Reference, which can be loaded onto your PDA. This technology is environmentally friendly, and advanced applications will save more trees.
E-prescribing eliminates most paper prescriptions, and electronic referrals are a paperless and efficient way to manage the referral and authorization process.
Consult utility companies, vendors
Tap into other people's expertise. Contact the utility companies to see what tips they have for saving energy, talk to your vendors about eco-friendly products, and go online and search for other energy-saving opportunities. Work with your hospital on identifying ways to send and receive reports electronically. It's an e-world, and the more we tap into it, the more resources we save. Keep in mind that computers suck up a lot of energy, so put them in sleep mode when they aren't in use.
Going green is everyone's responsibility, but it's your job to take the initiative and get things rolling. You might even want to have a green idea contest to get everyone in "green mode" and on board with suggestions on how the practice can do more to protect the environment.
Implement some of these tips practice-wide to alter behavior and attitudes about how energy is used and how supplies are managed. If everyone makes a few small changes, it will go a long way in saving our planet for future generations.
Joe Capko is a senior health care consultant with Capko & Co. who specializes in research, marketing, social media, business development, and strategic planning. Judy Capko is a health care consultant and the author of Take Back Time-Bringing Time Management to Medicine. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org