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Sustainability: rising to the forefront of hospital purchasing decisions

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | December 24, 2014
Keith Sutter
Sustainability is increasingly becoming a major consideration when hospitals make purchasing decisions, according to a recent Harris Poll survey commissioned by Johnson & Johnson. Over half of the respondents reported that they are currently considering sustainability and 80 percent expect to do the same in the next two years.

The survey interviewed 300 health care professionals both online and by phone from April to July 2014. Among the professionals were physicians, procurement managers and hospital executives from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Brazil and Japan.

Eight out of 10 of the respondents believe that the sustainable products help to protect their hospital staff and more than half think that sustainable initiatives improve patient outcomes and are important for patients to take into consideration when selecting a hospital.

"When we've had conversations with our customers, they really see that when we start to think about sustainability holistically across health care, we can improve outcomes, lower costs and improve patient satisfaction," Keith Sutter, director of medical devices and diagnostics for sustainability at Johnson & Johnson, told DOTmed News.

The aspects the U.S. respondents are focusing the most on are energy efficient devices, recyclable packaging, latex-free devices, products designed for multi-use, devices free of heavy metals, reduced packaging size, and products with recycled content in the packaging.

Most of the respondents — 79 percent — also believe that sustainable products and initiatives have many financial benefits. However, only 38 percent of them are tracking the return-on-investment that the products yield.

That's because only one or two people in a given hospital are dedicated to focusing on sustainability, and they don't have much time to set up the data collection to calculate the return-on-investment, said Sutter. To solve that, more plug-and-play tools are needed.

Johnson & Johnson is currently working on a total cost of ownership tool that will be presented at the annual CleanMed conference in May.

"If hospitals can demonstrate that these sustainability initiatives drive strong returns-on-investment, we know management will engage, especially if we can demonstrate delivering on those three elements of the triple aim — lowering cost, improving outcomes and improving patient satisfaction," said Sutter.

The manufacturers also have some work to do — 92 percent of the U.S. respondents reported that manufacturers need to provide them with more information about the benefits of the products. Sutter explained that the perception around sustainable products is that they cost more but that it's the manufacturers' job to shift that to the value that the hospitals get from more sustainable products.

Johnson & Johnson launched its Earthward's approach in 2009, which takes a holistic look at the entire life cycle of its products and identifies the major areas for improvement. In order for a product to receive "Earthwards recognition", it must make "significant" improvements in packaging reduction, waste reduction and energy efficiency. The company measures significance as a 10 percent or greater improvement over its previous products.

Sutter said that the company will be ending the year with 73 products that achieved "Earthwards recognition," which represents just over $8 billion in revenue.

Johnson & Johnson will be commissioning the next sustainability study in two years. "We want to continue to have this conversation and raise the bar for the entire industry," said Sutter. "We know that engaging with our customers and suppliers and other manufacturers will be the way that we will be able to have an impact."

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