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Quality Improvement Initiatives Can Cut Environmental Impact of OR

Potential annual cost savings range from $2,233 to $694,141 with transition to waterless surgical scrub, education to reduce regulated medical waste

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 14, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Quality improvement initiatives can be implemented to reduce costs and the environmental impact of the operating room, according to a review published in the Nov. 30 issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Gwyneth A. Sullivan, M.D., from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues conducted a literature search to identify quality improvement initiatives that aimed to decrease the environmental impact of the operating room while reducing costs. To inform data extraction, the triple bottom line framework, which considers the environmental, financial, and social impacts of interventions to guide decision-making, was used.

Data were included from 23 unique quality improvement initiatives that described 28 interventions. Eleven (39.3 percent), eight (28.6 percent), three (10.7 percent), and six (21.4 percent) interventions, respectively, were categorized as refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle. The researchers found that the potential annual cost savings varied from $2,233 (intervention: transition to a waterless surgical scrub; environmental impact: 2.7 million liters of water saved annually) to $694,141 (intervention: education to reduce regulated medical waste; environmental impact: 30 percent reduction in regulated medical waste), although the methods of measuring environmental impact and cost savings varied considerably among studies.

“The opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint falls squarely on us, and I see surgeons taking a prominent role in leading efforts, not just locally with their green implementation teams, but in setting national standards and policies that will move this effort forward for an overall sustainable way of approaching health care delivery,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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