Notes on CleanMed 2016 – Rob Chase

CleanMed 2016 was last week in Dallas, Texas. Attending with me was our Medical Director, Dr. Anne-Marie Regal. This was Dr. Regal’s first time attending, and she mentioned on our way back how uplifting the experience was and how committed the community of people attending CleanMed are to protecting the planet and human health. After being a Cardio-Thoracic surgeon for over 20 years and seeing all the waste coming out of the operating room, she too is committed to bring about change in the industry.

This was my fifth year at CleanMed, NewGen Surgical has exhibited in past years as a Greening the OR member, and each year I am inspired by the commitment of so many people dedicated to creating a more sustainable and resilient healthcare system. All of the attendees at CleanMed are leading their hospitals and organizations in some aspect of healthcare sustainability. It might be sustainable locally-sourced food, transportation, facilities, energy, waste, and/or supply chain. The main theme I heard people talking about, and I came away thinking, was being at a turning point in the awareness and need for aggressive action in addressing climate change and the threat to our collective human health. Much of this feeling came from the recent success coming out of the Paris Climate Change Conference 2015.

Here are some of the comments I heard that inspired me:
“Tackling climate change could be the greatest public health challenge for the 21st century.”
“Set goals, measure performance, make informed investments.”
“Small changes make a big impact.”
“Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I will tell you what you value.” – Joe Biden
“Caring for the environment is caring for people.”
“Who better to heal the environment than the health care sector?“
“Our mission is really simple: Money is not the key driver, but it is accelerating the adoption and use of greener products in healthcare.“
“I’m excited about the innovation and disruption.“
“On care for our common home: We need a new vision and a new way of thinking.“
It starts off with “What we buy matters.”
“We can help change the world one purchase at a time.”
“We are at a crisis point and we need bold goals that will challenge and inspire.”
“Plastics leach toxins and toxins create health impact.”
“Environmental factors are key drivers of health.”

One organization that really stood out for me was Kaiser. The keynote address by Dr. Raymond Baxter, President of Kaiser Permanente International, communicated how Kaiser as an organization sees climate change as a threat to human health and that we as a society are at a crisis point – and environmental hazards are undermining 50 years of progress in human health. Most impressive is their setting of 10-year stewardship goals that both challenge and inspire, not only their Kaiser, but the healthcare industry as a whole. Goals include energy, food, waste reduction, water conservation, safer products (half of all products purchased by 2025 will be Environmentally Preferred Products (EPP), ISO 14001 certified facilities, and collaboration with others. Kaiser has committed to being Carbon Net Positive by 2025.

Another very important development announced at CleanMed 2016 was the formation of the Greenhealth Exchange (GX). GX is a purchasing cooperative founded by four leading health systems, Health Care Without Harm, and Practice Greenhealth with the sole purpose of accelerating the adoption of “green” products. Products that are healthier for people, communities, and the environment. GX will help innovation and encourage more disruptive, creative thinking as companies look to create sustainable products. They will have a path to get to market without facing what sometimes feels like insurmountable barriers to entry with contracts and existing GPOs.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the hospitals that made it to the top 25 Environmental Excellence Award category. It takes hard work, vision, and a solid commitment to make some of these changes and these hospitals and healthcare systems are leading the way. It is inspiring. The hospitals attending CleanMed understand their mission to heal, to support healthy communities, and the important connection between human health and the environment. I look forward to the months ahead and continuing our work in bringing sustainable products to market and in supporting the many passionate leaders who attended CleanMed with whom we share a common goal.