December 6, 2022
As the climate shifts and affects the health needs of individuals across the world, surgeons are looking inward to see how the activities in the OR contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Recent research from the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS) looked at quality improvement initiatives from more than 20 hospitals to review the interventions and discuss how they not only can reduce surgery’s contributions to climate change, but also generate real cost savings.
The researchers identified peer-reviewed, quality improvement initiatives that both reduced environmental impact of the operating room and cut costs.
While all interventions demonstrated cost savings, the intervention that showed the greatest cost savings was a simple education initiative: $694,141 was saved annually by educating staff on how to properly consolidate and throw away medical waste, which is more expensive to dispose of than regular trash. The environmental impact amounted to a 30% reduction in medical waste in the hospital. There is significant potential for reducing waste, costs, and carbon footprint through modest changes, and surgeons at all level can contribute.
“From making sure that waste is deposited into the proper bins to wider adoption of recycling programs at hospitals, surgeons can start small. If we can come together just to think about what we are using, we can lower the amount of waste that we are producing overall, and reduce our emissions,” said Gwyneth A. Sullivan, MD, MS, lead study author and surgical resident at Rush University and a research fellow at Northwestern University Surgical Outcomes & Quality Improvement Center, both in Chicago.
The ACS also has played a part in educating surgeons about climate change, including through Bulletin articles and a session at the 2022 Quality and Safety Conference.
The study already has been reported on by Yahoo News, The Hill, and several other outlets. Read more about the article.