Can't we save money AND the Earth?

June 24, 2011
During one of the most interesting — and honest — discussions I had at this year’s HIMSS Conference, I was told that last year’s buzzword, “green,”

During one of the most interesting — and honest — discussions I had at this year’s HIMSS Conference, I was told that last year’s buzzword, “green,” has been replaced by “stimulus.” It’s not that vendors and hospitals don’t care about the environment anymore, this person said. It’s that priorities have changed in the last six months or so, and justifiably so.

Okay, but what about poor Mother Earth — does she take a backseat now?

Not necessarily. As I was told, it’s not that hospitals don’t care as much about the environment, but that the economic hard times have inspired companies to push more of a “cost savings” pitch, and less of a “reduced carbon footprint” angle.

But — I must ask, in the spirit of Earth Day — why not both?

Instead of just focusing on one or the other, let’s talk about how taking steps to “green” an IT department can result in cost savings. And it doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking; it can mean consolidating servers, implementing a SAN infrastructure, and installing more efficient desktops. As long as the outcome is less energy being exerted, it eventually will translate to savings. Maybe it won’t mean huge savings, and maybe it will take some time, but lower costs mean lower costs. Can’t that be part of the sell?

It’s kind of like how my husband Dan used to laugh at me for reusing things like aluminum foil and little sandwich bags, just like my Mom does. She and I both think that it’s wasteful to throw away something that can be used again; the landfills are already clogged enough. But once my husband realized we can save a little money by reusing, he was on board. Call it what you want — frugality, resourcefulness, “tree hugging” — but cutting down on waste just makes sense, all around.

Understandably, hospital execs (like Dan) are going to be more driven to cut costs, particularly in light of the economic climate. But if there are solutions that can lower costs while promoting environmentally-friendly practices, then aren’t they worth considering? The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the healthcare industry can lower energy use by 30 percent, which equates to $1.95 billion, by using renewable sources like solar power. Sounds pretty smart to me.

If your hospital or health system is employing “green” IT practices, I want to hear about it. Let’s discuss.

Oh yeah — and Happy Earth Day!

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