The planet is warming. We are CIOs — what can we do? It turns out CIOs are uniquely positioned in our health organizations to have a broad impact, and for a lot less headaches and costs then implementing an EMR! Interested in learning more? Please invest a few minutes to read the article and forward it to your teams, key vendors, and clients.
Healthcare is the largest industry in the US. According to CMS, it’s a $4 million industry, representing 18 percent of the economy. In 2021, there was an estimated $36 billion in hospital construction costs, with numerous adverse climate impacts. The mission of public health and healthcare systems is to improve health, which can be broadly determined to include environmental impact and climate change. Many health systems have boards of directors, governmental or religious sponsorship devoted to this ethic.
The CIO portfolio is technology, which largely runs on dead dinosaurs. Consider all the technologies within our scope in health systems — from badge readers to EMRs to AI surgery robots, and all the end-point devices in between. Think about the hundreds of vendor partners we interact with every year, and the data centers which keep it all humming. Tweaking two words in the title leaves little doubt of the opportunity for the Climate Initiative Officer!
A “simple, incremental, and tech-focused method”
Every day, CIOs work with our C-suite peers, lead change across department teams, engage vendors, and deploy technology to improve health. We can use this simple, incremental, and tech-focused method to first identify, then adopt a zero-carbon emissions plan. Here are work steps I have used to get started.
- Call your energy vendor(s). A power utility company is a vendor, and you are one of their biggest customers! They want to talk to you about what they are doing, and they have tons of data about your usage. For CIOs, this is muscle memory. Sound familiar?
- Grab a partner. This isn’t as complicated as selecting an EMR, ERP or HR system. To start, ask a CXO or physician who shares your vision to join you. If you sense momentum deputize a project manager. If this goes well, a fancy governance structure with many members will emerge to tackle other issues like green buildings, carbon neutral concrete, electric car fleets, a green supply chain, etc.
- Get data. Your energy vendor will need your help to get the account numbers, real estate addresses and meter numbers correctly identified. Once the end usage points are identified, the utility consumption and costs will tell a compelling story. Feels like any other vendor cost and user analysis, right?
- Form a plan. Your energy vendor wants to tell you about their carbon reduction plans and zero emissions date. They have the percent of your current consumption which is produced by renewable sources — an instant win to announce to the board on down! Ask if they can sell you carbon offsets. Finally, the most familiar step will be, yup, deploying an energy information system (EIS)! Many utilities have already built one, and the cost is incremental. Of course, if you don’t trust your utility, you can hire an energy consultant who will also sell you an EIS and assessment.
- Get your IT vendors engaged. This is where the CIO eco-system can be very powerful. Ask your vendors to share their carbon neutral plan and target date. For extra credit, have your finance team run the top 100 vendors by spend, and have your AA contact them for a formal response. While you’re at it, add a carbon neutral plan form to the other vendor paperwork you request (MSA, ISA, etc).
CIOs are unique; our jobs engage external private sector companies every day, perhaps more than any other executive. Our leadership and familiar processes can help us in reducing the health industry’s carbon impact.
The piece was written by Andy Draper, CIO at HCA Continental Division and founder of GreenCIO, a site developed to “activate CIOs to take action in their company and engage their vendor ecosystem to get to a carbon neutral world as fast as possible.”