Considering sustainability from a clinical perspective means allocating resources appropriately (both human and material), and considering the health and well-being of staff. A great business is said to always have morals that the symbiotic relationship between healthcare institutions and their environment ought to be managed through an effective compliance and sustainable management framework.
Healthcare services are indeed necessary for sustaining and improving human well-being, yet they have an environmental footprint that contributes to environment-related threats to human health. Studies have proven the rapid growth in health quality and performance measurement within the healthcare space; and due to an improved availability of digital healthcare data, vast quantities of data from healthcare records, patient administration systems and clinical data registries are now available for good use.
However, the key technical challenge for sustainability and measurement issues have always been the measurement techniques, and especially the extent to which it is possible to directly measure key environmental impacts.
Sustainability leadership in healthcare delivery incorporates many critical areas which are integral to quality improvement, process and systems design, and workforce planning issues across an integrated healthcare system. As is known, the size of the workforce of the hospitals management and the way they are managed, response to the call to duty, delivery of care and procurement of material, all significantly have impact on the environment and the human capital for quality service and customer satisfaction.
Meanwhile, if ever compliance issues would be adhered to and managed well to promote greater healthcare delivery, the key factor of sustainable leadership impact and role for systems and infrastructural change are highly imperative and crucial. Leadership that is for the greater good should provide clear and compelling direction, momentum, set new policy guides and targets, ensure the provision of resources for the attainment of robust systems and improvement measures for the healthcare organisation to function at the optimum best.
Having addressed that, sustainable leadership should be considered from the perspective of the principle of mindful actions and behaviours that embrace a global world-view and recognises the connection between the planet and humanity, thereby effecting positive environmental and social change through personal and organisation choices. Sustainable leadership ensures leaders of businesses manage companies with environment, society and long-term sustainable development goals in focus.
As understanding of the scale of healthcare’s environmental impacts grows, so too does interest in measuring and reporting on sustainability as a facet of healthcare system performance importance. This article examines important considerables from healthcare’s long experience with performance and quality measurement and reporting that can be applied to the creation of healthcare sustainability metrics.
Hospitals are becoming more conscious of managing waste and resources.
The provision of healthcare leads to high environmental impacts and economic costs for our society. Within the healthcare sector, hospitals are a main contributor to both aspects. The environmental impact of hospitals are analysed to show that building infrastructure and waste disposals cater for the main environmental impacts and consequences.
Waste and wastewater, pharmaceuticals, medical and housekeeping products equally create long-impact health challenges. As many healthcare institutions are looking to make the healthcare industry environmental-friendly by becoming more conscious of how they manage their waste, it is critical that they are guided by the right approaches and measures to change the face of healthcare delivery and its significance. These efforts are seen by some healthcare facilities making the efforts to unwrap disposable items when they’re about to be used to ensure unused items aren’t simply tossed in the trash. Other hospitals have also started working with suppliers to ensure medical equipment comes in packs instead of having everything individually wrapped to save on packaging waste. Several clinics equally have adopted different approaches to purchasing ‘reprocessed products’.
Healthcare facilities and challenges
The continuity of healthcare provision, safety and health risks control, facilities and equipment availability, economic and environmental efficiency, optimising energy, water and waste management are a central issue for all healthcare facilities. The quality of care which encompasses many aspects of patient care in providing safe, effective, patient-centred, timely, efficient and equitable service are still challenging for most healthcare providers. That notwithstanding, many care providers, insurers, delivery systems operators are ensuring consistent quality improvement in their delivery of services.
Healthcare delivery and the impact on environment
As already intimated, healthcare is a large economic sector and employer in many countries. Therefore, there is the pressing need to understand the health impact of the environmental footprint it has because as investment in healthcare increases around the world, there is considerable potential for increasing harm to health from pollution and environmental change. Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change factors are an important pathway of the negative health impact resulting from the environmental footprint of healthcare, for instance.
Care that is delivered in a way that does not adversely affect the health of the population, and does not use resources in a way that may compromise the ability of those in the future to provide high quality care to their population or increase their burden of illness is, however, advocated.
Although the health impacts of pollution and environmental change are well-recognised, the environmental impacts of healthcare have received less attention. Healthcare evaluation traditionally focuses on direct health outcomes and financial costs to the institution. However, the environmental footprint of healthcare provision, which includes a wide variety of air, water, and soil pollutants also have an unintended but negative impact on health.
However, to speak about corporate and Sustainable healthcare leadership is to talk about strategy, structure, systems, programmes and actions to position our healthcare facilities and services for better environmental and human impacts. Sustainability must be fully integrated into all aspects of corporate strategy such that healthcare institutions cannot have a separate sustainability strategy and expect to be truly impactful.
Much more, sustainable healthcare leadership must present information on the breath of issues that healthcare professionals should consider with regards to sustainability, including how they redefine quality in a sustainable healthcare system, consider quality improvement, incorporating additional cultural, societal and environmental issues that maximise the likelihood of sustainability issues having to impact adversely on the financial well-being of the organisation and its human capital advantage.
To better understand the role of leadership in sustainable issues is to essentially engage board level-talent, the recruitment of practices that leverage the deep expertise in sustainable leadership and corporate governance practices. Evidence emerged from research suggests that sustainability issues are a matter for board of directors concern, and that those that have been successful intimate clearly the steps or roadmap toward progress, touching on issues as wide ranging as board culture, risk management and corporate purpose.
That being said, improving sustainability in the health service undoubtedly, brings advancements in modern healthcare and has profound impact on the quality of life of the people. The advancements in building modern health facilities and systems have contributed to the eradication of many diseases, illness prevention and, in many cases, saving lives. Modern healthcare has even come as far as enabling us to treat and heal that which, before, we couldn’t prevent.
Nonetheless, this ground-breaking progress also produces an unintended side-effect in the form of significant environmental impacts. In the process of healing patients, hospitals use a vast amount of natural resources, generate tonnes of waste every single day and consume huge amounts of electricity. What is the way forward then?
Key consideration for healthcare transformation
Despite that, global expenditure on healthcare is increasing, systems and infrastructure are not effectively meeting this accelerating demand, with expenditure still occurring in many jurisdictions to address historical under-investment. Rising healthcare infrastructure costs and ageing assets will mean a struggle to deliver on political imperatives for the delivery of new infrastructure, and repurposing of existing infrastructure. The increasing focus on mental health at a political level is also showing a long-term deficit in investment. Healthcare providers, therefore, must look to new models of healthcare infrastructure investment and service delivery that meet the expectations of an increasingly aware community, promote health equity that are fit for purpose, flexible, efficient and sustainable.
A need for a sustainable healthcare reform
The world has changed and the need to pivot and innovate has never been more pressing. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the vulnerability that exist in many healthcare systems. Healthcare providers have had to quickly adapt to different service delivery models, consider future possible scenarios and continue to innovate as improved outcomes.
The quest for reimagining healthcare challenges and potential solutions unpack how healthcare providers can navigate beyond the current state into the future of a sustainable human-centred healthcare system. Across several health facilities are current trends that must be promoted to shape the need to adapt and shift healthcare infrastructure planning, investment, design and delivery to better meet current healthcare improvements and needs.
Safety and reliability
To touch on the future of sustainable healthcare is to re-emphasise the need for safety and reliable services. In dealing with major health challenges, hospitals must be able to ensure continuity of care and services for their patients under all circumstances; and by this, healthcare providers and hospitals must completely take the right steps to invest in training their staff to be equitable, innovative and serviceable.
Relationship between ESG and Sustainable Healthcare Performance:
ESG is the integration of firm performance regarding its economic, environmental, social and corporate governance performance. With this, individuals and institutional investors pursue attractive financial returns that associate with a positive impact on communities and the environment. Godfrey (2009) intimated that compliance or investment in ESG is insurance for reputational risks, that an ESG compliance reduces the residual risk of the firm through its non-accounting parameters. Several studies have also provided evidence to the correlative impact ESG has on a firm’s performance.
One such viewpoint is the Stakeholder theory which suggests that ESG activities can improve the relationship between firms and their stakeholder. Others also assume that a firm’s resources are invaluable, unique, imitable and non-substitutable; and that such resources allow them to conduct CSR activities to develop their brand image and public reputation, thereby boosting their appeal to employees, enhance customer trust and subsequently strengthen their competitive advantage and improve the firm’s financial performance.
Arguably, the large variation in the environmental impact of different hospitals reveals that there is a considerable, yet untapped potential for sustainability improvements in the hospital sector; and the commitment to look to ESG and its compliance framework remain the panacea for a sustainable healthcare future.
Discovery….Thinking solutions, shaping visions.
Frank Adu Anim, in Collaboration with Dr. Genevieve Pearl Duncan Obuobi (Lead Consultant on Cx. Leadership & SME, Country Chair, Ladies in Business)
About Frank Adu Anim:
Frank Anim holds BA in Political Science, and MBA Finance from University of Ghana and GIMPA respectively. He is the CEO and Strategic Partner of AQUABEV Investment and Discovery Consulting Group. He is an Executive Director and the Lead Coach in Leadership Development and best Business Management practices for Discovery Leadership Masterclass. He has authored several articles in Leadership, Business Strategies and Organisational Planning under Discovery Leadership Series.
Frank has significant experience in Business Development, Strategy and Finance, Deal Origination, Transaction Advisory, Investment Consulting and General administration. He has interest in mentoring and coaching young business entrepreneurs through Discovery Business and Entrepreneurship Programme. He is a nominee for Global Excellence Business Leader Award by the Swiss School of Business and Management, Switzerland.
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