A hospital’s mission is inextricably tied to the issue of sustainability. After all, without a sustainable operation, there is no hospital.
Sustainability goals usually refer to money saved, energy conserved, waste diverted, water recycled, or any other easily understood metric. But a clear connection between sustainability and a hospital’s mission, in an understandable language and with a factual basis, rarely occurs.
The connection between sustainability and mission must extend to effective management of the healthcare environment, social interaction between patient and healthcare provider, community-based healthcare approaches, and the utilization of current technology.
The mission must have measurable goals and objectives that support sustainability, and the ability of the health system to thrive in its ecological, social, and economic environment.
Effective management of the healthcare environment
Environmental sustainability has assumed a large role in the collective conscience of the American public; environmental stewardship is an expected norm for healthcare providers. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports and triple bottom line (3BL) reports are standard responses to that consciousness.
Many hospitals in existence are nearing the end of their life span and will undergo renovation or replacement. The management of these buildings and properties in a sustainable manner is an obvious next step. Renewable energy, energy conservation, access to mass transportation, recycling, building reuse, and green building design and construction are but a few of the sustainability issues that the healthcare industry can directly impact.
Conservation is a viable mission objective that is seen as a positive impact on the planet, people, and profit.
When the mission objective includes the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) services model, the management of care is a centrally located, team-oriented continuum of coordinating and tracking care over time, from prenatal and physical fitness to long-term and palliative care.
While it is not always practical to construct brand new facilities to house these all-inclusive services, a concerted effort through renovation, reuse, and alliance partnerships can accomplish this robust mission goal.
Social sustainability between patient and provider
Social sustainability refers to the ability or opportunity that each individual has to create or experience a full existence in terms of intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
Unquestionably, the focus on social sustainability is at the heart of the human mission of the healthcare industry. While healing patients is the primary outcome of that mission, providing access and teaching opportunities about preventative behavior and wellness are equally important.
Part of the PCMH function is to focus on equitable access and quality of access of patients to providers, beginning at the boundary of the region, city, and neighborhood. The health mission is experienced in the physical environment: the path from house to provider that inspires wellness and respite for patients, visitors, clinicians, and administrators.
The mission must also inspire clinicians and administrators to become models of nutritional health.
Partnership alliances can extend to cafeterias, whole food grocers, farmers markets, or private restaurants. For instance, a weekly farmers market at a hospital campus could provide local produce to the food service operations, invite neighbors to have access to healthy foods, and be a supportive wellness benefit for PCMH participants.
Patient outcomes, wellness, healthy living—these are all components of social sustainability with which healthcare providers should strive to equip themselves, thereby influencing those to whom they provide care. In fact, these components should be the easiest to accomplish since hospitals are full of trained, educated, and experienced personnel with the very expertise needed.