Greening Your Practice

April 16, 2009

Your patients already look to you for good advice and excellent care; take advantage of this unique position to lead the charge and become an advocate for the environment as well as your patients.

Your patients already look to you for good advice and excellent care; take advantage of this unique position to lead the charge and become an advocate for the environment as well as your patients. There are a number of ways your practice can reduce your impact on the environment with minimal effort and expense. All it requires is a “can-do” attitude, a little research, and a willingness to make changes.

A good way to start is by conducting an environmental audit of your practice. What do you throw away? And how is it discarded? Ferret out unnecessary waste and consumption by involving your entire staff in the auditing process - issue a practice-wide challenge. Here are a few areas to check first:

Look at energy consumption. Reduce unnecessary energy consumption by switching to low voltage and fluorescent lighting throughout your office, and when possible, use natural lighting. There are plenty of inexpensive window coverings that let the light in without compromising privacy. Letting in the sunlight can also play a role in reducing winter heating costs and chasing away the winter blues.

Computers are an important part of doing business, but they can also be a big contributor to your energy bill and to energy waste. Be sure to set the power-saver mode whenever possible. Don’t forget those leaky faucets; water consumption can be easily reduced by using water-saving fixtures. Contact the power and water company to see what tips they have for saving energy, as well.

Recycle and repurpose. Shred and recycle confidential documents and recycle your white paper, magazines, and any plastic containers. Don’t forget to recycle ink cartridges on all office printers and copiers. When it makes sense, photocopy on both sides of the paper - or better yet, scan items directly into the computer instead. Using a card scanner for patients’ insurance cards can save a ton of paper, and wear and tear on your copier.

Save a few trees. Technology can play an important role in reducing paper consumption. By communicating through e-mail and storing messages electronically, your practice can save both time and money while helping the environment. E-prescribing and electronic referrals can also eliminate paper, while improving staff efficiency and patient safety. Even reference materials are available in electronic form; for example, the “Physicians Desk Reference” now can be loaded right onto your PDA.

Buy green products. Look at other products you use in the office, such as cleaning supplies. Perhaps some of them can be replaced with less toxic, organic products. Purchase recycled paper products whenever you can; even recycled ink cartridges are available for your office printers and copiers.

These are just a few practical things you can do to have a greener medical practice. Encourage your staff to apply these environmentally friendly principles at home, as well. Going green is everyone’s responsibility. If everyone makes a few small changes, it will go a long way in saving our planet for future generations.

Judy Capko is a healthcare consultant, speaker and author of the popular books; “Secrets of the Best Run Practice, 2006” and “Take Back Time: Bringing Time Management to Medicine, 2008.” She is a popular speaker at national and regional conferences. Judy is the owner of Capko & Company, www.capko.com, and is based in Thousand Oaks, Calif. She can be reached via judy@capko.com.