MaryBeth Matzek: Health care systems sign on to HHS sustainability initiative

This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion.

Sustainability and health care aren’t normally mentioned in the same breath, but a new initiative is looking to change that – and improve the care provided to patients. Late last year, representatives from 11 health care organizations – including two from Wisconsin – were invited to a White House summit on the topic.

La Crosse-based Gundersen Health and Appleton-based ThedaCare were in attendance to learn about the new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Sustainable and Climate Resilient Health Care Facilities Initiative. The program is designed to develop tools and information to help health care facilities prepare for the impacts of climate change and increase their ability to provide continuity of care before, during and after extreme weather events.

The new guide looks at the best practices organizations can take to improve their climate readiness, says Paul Linzmeyer, ThedaCare’s sustainability leader.

“By embracing these new guidelines, ThedaCare will be better prepared to care for patients and the community during any severe weather events as well as being prepared for the additional strain climate change is expected to put on our health care system through associated illnesses and the exacerbation of chronic conditions like cardiovascular and respiratory diseases,” he says.

Sustainability initiatives are nothing new for Gundersen, which was the first healthcare organization in the nation to commit to energy independence (that was back in 2008). To hit that goal – which it achieved this past October — CEO Jeff Thompson, MD, says Gundersen focused on two main initiatives: reducing consumption by improving efficiency and producing cleaner energy.

Read the full column for more