During May's CleanMed Conference, Mercy Health, a non-profit health care provider and hospital system, revealed a breakthrough approach for integrating Environmental Health Impact (EHI) data into their purchasing decision process. As a faith-based health system, Mercy Health is dedicated to improving the health of the communities they serve. And with the release of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Mercy Health executives have initiated a variety of programs to ‘care for our common home,’ and challenged their teams to implement sustainability throughout operations.
For Noah Dunlap, Mercy Health’s vice president of sourcing and procurement, this was a tough challenge, especially given the common misconception that products designed to support the environment are more expensive, difficult to source, and less effective. In addition, there was confusion as to how to define the sustainability of medical products.
To overcome these obstacles, Dunlap’s goal was to find a viable definition for supply chain sustainability, gather data and incorporate the data into his team’s decision tools. His first success was in discovering Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP).
Defining Supply Chain Sustainability
Led by Kaiser Permanente in collaboration with leading non-profit organizations, EPP is being implemented by GPOs and health systems throughout the country. The EPP framework used in health care considers the environmental impact of a product’s materials, packaging, and disposal options. Simply stated, the goal of EPP is to improve health and reduce waste.
Additionally, the health of patients, staff, and the community is improved by choosing products free of known chemicals of concern
—those identified on the basis of credible scientific evidence by a state, federal or international agency as being known or suspected with a high degree of probability to be linked to a variety of chronic diseases including cancer, respiratory ailments, and birth defects.
Gathering Usable EHI Data
Dunlap’s next challenge was finding usable EHI data. Consistent with today’s hospital purchasing process, Dunlap’s team uses analytical tools to evaluate clinical outcomes, price, and utilization. Consideration of the Environmental Health Impact of products has been, at best, tertiary and limited to a few select product categories. The primary deterrent has been the availability of usable data to include in the purchasing decision analysis.
“Environmental Health Impact data has been difficult to access and interpret, so it hasn’t been helpful,” said Dunlap. “What’s been missing is useful product intelligence to benchmark the environmental and human health impact of the products in our hospitals.”
The Solution: Partnership and Collaboration Across the Supply Chain
In 2017, Premier Inc. initiated a partnership with MindClick—a supply chain sustainability data analytics firm—to collect, validate, and report the EHI attributes of health care products. Through MindClick’s cloud-based solution, Premier’s contracted suppliers provide answers to the standardized EPP questions used by health systems and GPOs throughout the field. “Premier is working with MindClick to integrate EHI data into the sourcing processes which can be leveraged by our member health systems,” said Zoë Beck, manager of Environmentally Preferred Products and Supply Chain Services for Premier Inc.
With the combination of MindClick’s technology solution and collaboration between suppliers, Premier and Mercy Health, Dunlap’s team obtained access to environmental health impact performance data, a benchmark assessment of Mercy Health’s purchasing, and a cost impact analysis of switching to products with better environmental health performance.“Having integrated environmental performance data is making it possible for Mercy Health to meet our cost and performance goals while supporting the total health of our communities,” said Dunlap.
Mercy Health’s efforts demonstrate how supply chain executives can now integrate environmental health impact data to effectively support their organization’s total health commitment, without compromising cost, quality, or outcomes.