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Environmental impact reports requested for medical products

The sustainability assessments are being required by Kaiser Permanente for supplies sold to any of its facilities.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted June 9, 2010

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Information about the environmental impact of various medical supplies, devices and equipment is expected to become more available, because a large purchaser will be requiring it.

Kaiser Permanente announced May 4 that its vendors would need to complete sustainability assessments about each product sold to a Kaiser facility. Information on the company's environmental efforts, as well as data about the recycling potential of the product and its packaging, will be among several factors that affect purchasing decisions.

However, "the clinical performance is always the most critical and highly-rated factor," said Robert Gotto, Kaiser's executive director of procurement and supply.

Kaiser spends about $1 billion on medical products annually. Several supply chain partners said they will be ready to provide the information by September. Because these companies also serve other institutions, the requirement is expected to eventually influence $10 billion in annual medical product purchases.

"Kaiser Permanente recognizes we can improve health today and for the future by taking a close look at the products we purchase," said Dean Edwards, the organization's vice president and chief procurement officer. "With Kaiser Permanente's size and influence, the work we're doing is continuing to move the industry."

Kaiser has long had environmental guidelines calling for reduced use of chemicals that could harm the environment and has worked to reduce the use of devices containing mercury. It is installing solar panels at its facilities.

Medical societies have long been working on green issues, and the American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health issued a report on the subject in November 2008 (link).

The AMA supports the use of ecologically sustainable products, foods, and materials when possible, as well as communitywide adoption of "green" initiatives by organizations, businesses, homes, schools, government bodies and health care entities.

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