Dermatology Times spoke with Todd L. Sack, MD, before his practice management talk about the benefits (including financial ones) of going green and embracing sustainability. .
Sack, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist in private practice, is also editor of MyGreenDoctor.orga free, nonprofit service owned by the Florida Medical Association and supported organizations such as the World Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology.
“Physicians and practice managers would like to commit to environmental sustainability and climate change, but they have no idea how to start.
“Practices and doctors can start by committing to doing this: making sustainability one of the core values of their practice. And part of that commitment is saying, ‘Let’s spend 5 minutes a month on environmental sustainability.'”
Once they have committed to going green, they can plan to make small, ongoing changes to the way the practice is managed. Over time, that translates into real improvements and improvements in the health of the practice and potentially a healthier community. It really starts with a commitment that, as a practice, we’re going to be green. We are going to make sustainability a core principle, as important as providing high-quality healthcare or being respectful to everyone in the practice, or complying with HIPAA requirements; Sustainability is going to be one of our fundamental values.
“And once we’ve done that, we start making a small series of changes by having 5 minutes of sustainability in practice business meetings. So if your clinic meets once a month, everyone in the room to talk about business topics such as complaints, EHR programming, vacations and things we need, supplies we need, and we added 5 minutes of environmental sustainability.
“All practices can save money and decrease your greenhouse gas footprint, and decrease the resulting air pollutants. By really thinking about energy, setting thermostats appropriately, turning off unnecessary equipment, purchasing the least expensive Energy Star-rated appliances, That sort of thing. Typically, a practice can save about $1,000 per doctor per year simply by being careful and following fairly standard energy-saving guidelines.
“There’s more you can do with energy: you can buy a little energy from your utility. This year is a great year to take advantage of that $7,500 tax credit. So people should take advantage of the full energy tax credit. the Inflation Reduction Law.
“It all starts with recycling; recycling doesn’t always save much in terms of resources, but it’s actually setting the right example for your patients. And when your patients see that you’re recycling their paper, they’ll start following your recommendations. So give a good example to your patients by recycling, reusing, buying things that are not necessarily bought in. Take the Styrofoam out of your practice and things like that.
“Another important topic is patient education. And I provide links to so many educational resources and other ways that we can help share ideas with our patients. We talk about food choices, healthy foods in the office. We move on to the patient, healthy foods for the environment and ways to teach these ideas to patients. We are talking about transportation options, safer use of chemicals, etc.
“What patients see in the office really matters. Nurses, doctors and pharmacists are always among the top 5 most respected professions and people in any community, in any culture in the world. That’s why we set a good example by recycling wisely, using chemicals. Wisely. Our patients notice it. When they see that we have electric and fuel-efficient vehicles in the parking lot, they notice it too. So we really have the ability to lead by example.
“But when patients take these ideas home, there really is a chance to impact their activities at home. For example, the chemicals used in the home. The choice of cleaning products and soaps can make a really big difference on the health of our patients.This is particularly true in the case of allergic patients.
“And by the way, patients love coming to an office that is a green office. They love to see that we are recycling. They love to see that we are using energy wisely. I suspect that this kind of confidence that instills in the patient for their health professionals leads to better adherence. They listen to what we tell them about the allergy because they trust that we are thinking about their general interest.
“The American Academy of Dermatology is actually ahead of most professional societies and talking to its members about sustainability. The American Academy of Dermatology offers the My Green Doctor program free of charge to its members as a membership benefit. The benefit is worth several thousand dollars a year. You can register at mygreendoctor.org (there is also a Spanish version) and use the discount code MGDAAD to use the free resource.
“Put 5 minutes of sustainability on each agenda of your weekly or monthly business meetings and just make those small, steady improvements and, over time, you will feel very proud and your patients will be excited to see the progress. I think you will look back inside 6 months and you will be really glad you did.
Transcript edited for style and length.
Do you have an eco-friendly practice? Do you have successful practice management tips to share with your colleagues? Email us at DTEditor@mmhgroup.com.
TL bag. The GREEN practice. Presented at the 2023 Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. November 10-13, 2023; Anaheim, California.