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Environmental Sustainability: A Core Value Essential for Today’s Medical Office

Environmental Sustainability: A Core Value Essential for Today’s Medical Office

More than ever before, you need an environmentally sustainable office. This is because the skills that come with sustainability are the same skills that you need to thrive with the world’s current healthcare challenges: decision making by teams, continual process improvement, efficiency & flexibility.

Environmental sustainability” in an office setting was defined in 1987 by the United Nation’s World Commission on Environment & Development, as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”   The same sentiment was expressed by the American environmentalist, Robert F Kennedy Jr., in July, 2007, when he said, “We did not inherit this planet from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

Each of these statements embodies the ethical principles of awareness for the long-term implications of our actions and respect for the rights of others. These statements sound true to medical professionals because they remind us of the most fundamental ethical principal of healthcare, attributed to Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine”, in 3rd Century B.C.E.: “First do no harm.”

As healthcare providers, we know that everything we do has the potential to harm, even as we intend to heal.  Just as our tests and treatments may harm some patients, our decisions produce small environmental damages that may, in aggregate, lead to injury to the natural environment that have consequences for human health of this or future generations. Our uses of energy, water, chemicals, and other resources all have ethical consequences.

Striving for environmental sustainability can be a part of every person’s personal ethical principles. You can make this one of the values held by your medical offices, outpatient facilities, or entire company, together with other core values such as delivering quality care, respect for preserving life, respect for privacy, and non-discrimination.

So why more than ever before do you need an environmentally sustainable office? First, there is the obvious reason that man is exhausting precious, non-renewable resources such as clean water, stable climate, undeveloped spaces, and certain minerals. We have an obligation to not compromise the availability of these to future generations.

The second reason to adopt environmental sustainability in your medical office is that the processes needed for addressing sustainability are exactly what are needed to confront the urgent challenges facing healthcare today.   Modern medical practices, if they are to survive, need to bring together all the talents in the office and to harness the creative thinking of young people to find new ways of solving problems.   These are the same skills promoted by medical office Green Teams in the pursuit of environmental stability:

  • Employee participation & team building
  • Office self-examination
  • Process improvement
  • Lowering business operating costs
  • Supporting the values of employees who want to “make a difference” for others
  • Creating a healthier work environment
  • Achieving healthier patients & healthier communities
  • Improving the public’s recognition and approval of the office

My Green Doctor urges every medical office to discuss the concept of environmental sustainability, to adopt this as a core value for your organization, and share this concept with your office staff, your families, and your patients.

Interested? Register today at www.mygreendoctor.org where you can take the Green Doctor Office Pledge, your first step towards sustainability. It’s free, safe, and no passwords are needed. You will receive a free waiting room certificate just for taking our Pledge. Next, go to the Resources tab where you will find a complete Environmental Sustainability Policy & Procedures document that your company can adopt. Go to “Quick Start, Now!” where you can learn how to start your first Green Team in just 15 minutes. You can begin making important improvements and saving money today.

 

Author: Todd L Sack, MD, Editor, My Green Doctor

Date: December 2015

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