Zoning in on energy: How the healthcare industry is conserving & losing

Global policies continue to promote energy efficiency, and with rising overhead costs, healthcare organizations are adapting smarter practices. Hospitals alone use 2.5 times more energy than commercial buildings, according to a Navigant Research report. When powering such critical buildings as hospitals and healthcare centers, power outage isn't an option.

1. Healthcare institutions are decreasing energy consumption and costs. Overlook Medical Center in Summit N.J., installed a tri-generation power plant that harnesses the waste heat produced by generators and substitutes steam formerly created by boilers. The hospital also uses an absorption chiller to create chilled water for air conditioning and dehumidification. The hospital uses a system to produce lower grade domestic hot water.

"The installation of a tri-generation power plant has had a most significant impact on reducing the medical center's carbon footprint by reducing the cost of replaced energy by more than 60 percent," says John Knightly, MD, director of the spine program at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J.

2. Hospitals are better preparing for emergencies. We now have the capability to use solar and wind energy to power technologies in the healthcare sector, like robotics. "With back up generators (some solar powered) we can run hospitals even in states of emergency or during power outages," says Bruce Pinker, DPM, of Progressive Foot Care in White Plains and Pomona, N.Y.

"An important benefit realized by the neurosurgeon and patient, is that the tri-generation plant provides redundant electrical generating capability, which means, in emergency situations like Hurricane Sandy the hospital and ORs can operate independent of grid-supplied power," says Dr. Knightly.

3. Healthcare providers are noticing the energy used by instruments, as well. "Slowly, devices that read and impart energy are showing their usefulness in the integrative medicine world, and emerging shortly afterwards in the world of conventional medicine," says Alan M. Dattner, MD, Holistic Dermatology and Integrative Medicine in Central Park West, N.Y. "In dermatology, lasers and light devices have been well accepted, and now we are seeing pulsed EMF devices, as well."

4. Physicians are cutting down time with patients. Physicians must see more patients daily, due to increasing energy costs and decreasing reimbursements.

"Due to the rising energy costs and the reduction in reimbursements, there is a greater amount of concentration on reducing energy costs, which decreases the quality of patient care," says Stacy-Ann Smith, DC, of Abundant Living Chiropractic Center in Loxahatchee, Fla. "For example, the reduction in the amount of time spent with patients and the amount of resources the physician utilizes on patient care."

5. People losing jobs in the energy sector are seeking medical care without insurance. Many of these uninsured people wait until they're much sicker before visiting a physician, resulting in high treatment costs, bad debt expense and more charity care.

"Even though the energy sector has always been very generous to healthcare, some healthcare facilities that have beneficial foundations are seeing reductions in donations from the sector with the downturn," says Robert D. Dudley, healthcare banker, BOK Financial in Tulsa, Okla. "Also, with many foundations holding energy assets that have been gifted in the past, the reduced energy prices are negatively impacting cash flow streams that may have been used to support health programs and/or capital projects."

Pictured from left to right: Dr. John Knightly, Dr. Bruce Pinker, Dr. Alan M. Dattner, Dr. Stacy-Ann Smith & Mr. Robert Dudley








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