The University of Maryland Medical Center is cutting costs in a sizable way through the adoption of data-driven sustainability and energy-efficiency practices regarding its management of operating rooms and the use of medical devices.

Adopting approaches that are supported by the health care member association Practice Greenhealth, the medical center realized savings of $1.2 million through single-use device reprocessing and OR kit reformulation in 2014, says Justin Graves, R.N., the medical center’s sustainability manager. Additional savings were derived from more efficient energy usage, reduced medical waste and increased recycling.  

The practices that led to the cost savings came from the University of Maryland’s involvement in the "Greening the OR" initiative of Practice Greenhealth, a membership association of about 1,400 health care organizations that are committed to environmental stewardship. Practice Greenhealth provides technical resources, support and education to participating hospitals and health systems.

"UMMC got involved in this initiative because it's the right thing to do for the environment and the health of the community, and it saves money," Graves says. The university medical center has been participating in Practice Greenhealth programs since 2007.

The Greening the OR initiative includes the reprocessing of medical equipment such as pulse oximeters, surgical instruments and operating room supply totes, which are kits of supplies created by staff members.

The program is data-focused. "Every month, we review these surgical totes and what we're not using and what we're returning to the manufacturer," says Jill Ciotta, R.N., UMMC's operating room Green Team co-chair.

Officials for Practice Greenhealth anticipate growth in demand for green-focused programs as a result of the evolving health care system. Cecilia DeLoach Lynn, Practice Greenhealth's director of sector performance and recognition, says, "With the focus on population health and how we reach back into our communities to protect and promote health, this conversation is going to become even more important."