Maybe it is easy being green? Quick tips for running an environmentally-friendly OMS surgery…

What is sustainability and who does it benefit?

You may already be familiar with variations of this definition:

Sustainability is the capacity to meet “the resource and services needs of current and future generations without compromising the health of the ecosystems that provide them”. [1]

That’s the goal: to live well now and make sure those ahead of us live well too. Sustainability should ensure that everyone benefits, ourselves included!

Why run a sustainable practice?

Surgical specialities have a big responsibility. After all, providing high-quality and innovative care for patients is what OMS practices excel at. The OMS operatory particularly is highly resource-intensive. Therefore, understanding how surgeries can best manage these necessary resources in order to provide the greatest care possible for patients and the planet is vital.

Financially, it is becoming more and more economically viable for surgeries to invest in green technologies and practices. As well as various grants, tax credits and deductions for environmental initiatives, there are often huge savings to be made by using modern, energy-saving, carbon-neutral technologies.

Both referral sources and patients can be enticed by a surgery’s green initiatives, as it shows a commitment to high-quality, high-tech, considerate and contemporary care.

There are, of course, some challenges...

OMS practices can be fast-paced and the weeks go by in a whirlwind. Sometimes, there just isn’t the time to organise an assessment of the sustainability and environmental impact of your surgery, when more immediate and urgent concerns might be at the forefront of our minds. It can feel overwhelming to even know where to start when it comes to reducing your practice’s emissions, cutting down on waste and saving energy. Lack of education, conversation and training has been identified as one of the main reasons why surgeries feel unable to practice sustainably.

Another challenge is that the major sources of emissions (use of single-use devices, ventilation, heating, air-con and anaesthetics) are often crucial for OMS surgeries to run safely.

It’s easy to feel lost with it all. However, you don’t need to make huge changes to make a huge change…

...Small is beautiful

Whilst running your OMS practice in an eco-friendly way might seem like a big task, there are so many little things that we can do to make a difference, not only to the environment but also for our patients and our surgeries. One study has shown that even making tiny changes to your clinic’s thermostat (such as turning down the heat by just 2°F) and switching to efficient lighting can decrease unnecessary spending on energy. Encouraging personnel behaviors such as switching off electrical equipment and turning lights out when not in use can reduce carbon emissions and reduce those bills too!

Keeping up to date with technology saves money and saves your pocket

Just under ten years ago, it was discovered that automated control of end-tidal gases in anesthetic machines could reduce costs by 27% and greenhouse gas emissions by 44%. This is a trend we see often with sustainable technologies; not only are they better for the environment, but also better for the pocket. [3] Avoiding intemperate fresh gas flow rates and training anesthesiologists on environmentally- considerate anesthetic choices can hugely improve on wasteful and harmful emissions.

As for advancements in administration software, going digital and using tablets reduces paper, reduces waste, and is cleaner, clearer and easier to organize than analogue methods of keeping and storing data. Paperwork just isn’t a thing anymore. Using software saves you time and stress, and stops that waste-paper basket from piling up!

Telehealth is kind to the planet

A few posts back, we explored the do’s and do not’s of telehealth in some detail, so keep scrolling to the bottom of this page to find that article. In the post, we mentioned that telehealth can actually negate the need for patients to travel regularly to and from clinics. Not only is this advantageous during the current pandemic, but telehealth also enables you to engage with patients from all over the country and beyond, allowing you to easily expand your practice. Less travel, less energy, less pollution, and less non-sustainable resources being consumed. Telehealth saves money, saves time, and saves the planet.

What’s your action plan?

Whether it’s using tablets to send out automatic reminders to all members of staff to turn light switches off, or switching to an efficient energy provider, there is so much that can be done to improve your practice’s sustainability and lead the way for other surgeries. Working together can result in collective purchasing power and industry-wide change that can improve the sustainable future of OMS surgeries.

And hey, if you’ve got it, why not flaunt it? Tell us about how you run your practice sustainably: caring for your patients, your staff, and your planet

References and further reading:

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