For Health Care, Purchasing Safer Electronics Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

Most of us use multiple kinds of electronic devices on a daily basis, and many of us scarf up the newest gadgets even before the old one’s warranty runs out (which as you know, doesn’t take very long to do!).  But most of us rarely think about the health consequences from the vast amounts of energy and tons of toxic chemicals used in the manufacture of these products, chemicals that can pose health and environmental hazards during production, use and disposal of the equipment.

Now, following a long-time collaboration with the Center for Environmental Health, two of the country’s leading hospital systems, Kaiser Permanente and Catholic Healthcare West, have committed to the strongest standards in the country for purchasing and managing their IT equipment.

And with the drive to electronic medical records management, these hospitals expect to spend billions of dollars in new IT equipment over the next few years.

By endorsing CEH’s “Health Care’s Guidance Document for Environmentally Preferable Information Technology (IT) Products,” Kaiser Permanente and Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) are publicly committing to reducing the environmental and health impact of the design, manufacture, and disposal of their IT electronics.  This puts a previously ignored concern squarely on the business world’s map. Their action says, “Electronics are a problem, we know they’re a problem, and we are businesses committed to doing something about it.”

The health problems from electronics production and disposal are massive and well-documented. Recent exposes by CBS 60 Minutes and PBS Frontline have documented health problems suffered by communities surrounded by manufacturing facilities and e-waste disposal sites. By committing to buying safer equipment and managing their IT machines responsibly, the hospitals are protecting the health of these communities, workers, and consumers.

And by doing good, they’re doing well: since they started taking some steps in safer electronics management in 2006, Kaiser and CHW have reported combined cost savings from the energy efficiency and waste reduction gains of more than $13.5 million.

The announcement is already creating a buzz in the health care industry – in the wake of the Kaiser/CHW announcement, we’ve received endorsements from two of the largest health care Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs are Costcos for hospitals).

As other members of the healthcare sector play follow-the-leader, CEH expects to have an attentive audience with which to share our purchasing expertise.  You can read more about this absolute game changer here: