6 ways sustainability boosts the bottom line for nursing homes

A recent report labeled waste as the “new norm” for nursing home operations. And we’re not just talking about trash. The waste of energy, materials and drugs – and the related waste of employee time – adds up to the most dangerous waste of all when it comes to the health of your facility: wasted money (nursing homes are said to waste hundreds of millions annually in discarded drugs alone). In an industry beset by what some call a “funding crisis,” new efforts need to be made to ensure that skilled nursing facilities remain financially sustainable.

Thankfully, environmental sustainability offers nearly as much hope for the bottom line as it does for the health of the planet. One study indicates that the healthcare industry overall could save up to $15 billion annually through better sustainability practices. Here are six ways that keeping sustainability top of mind can improve your bottom line.

1. Get smart about materials waste

The average healthcare facility generates 25 pounds of waste per patient or resident each and every day. Training staff to effectively sort out medical “red bag” waste from recyclable materials and ordinary trash is essential. It helps avoid fines (which can range from $5,000 to $70,000) and reduce costs from your waste handlers.

2. Plug in to new resources for energy savings

The energy-saving organization Energy Star estimates that every dollar a nonprofit healthcare facility saves on energy is equal to generating 20 dollars in new revenue. No wonder, then, that nursing homes, like hospitals and other healthcare providers, are investing not just in super-efficient LED light bulbs, but are undertaking “energy management makeovers,” with advanced lighting sensors and central control systems to optimize energy use.

3. Save by design

If you’re designing, or redesigning, a nursing home, the opportunities for improving both costs and care abound. Sustainable design principals, such as emphasizing natural light, introducing plants, and using low-VOC (volatile organic compound) interior materials are proven to reduce energy use, increase patient wellness, and lower the overall cost of care.

4. Tap into better water management

Nursing homes are starting to take a page from the hotel management playbook when it comes to water management. New technology, from “eco” shower heads to tap aerators, is preventing water waste and lowering the cost of heating water in bathrooms, laundry rooms and throughout facilities.

5. Invest now to keep shareholders happy later

While for-profit nursing homes may be the most hesitant to “spend” on sustainability efforts, they are also the ones who can realize the most benefit. Studies show that organizations investing in sustainability enjoy as much as a 5% boost in share price.

6. Attract sustainability-minded patients.

As with virtually ever other business sector, consumer choice in nursing homes will be increasingly influenced by the organization’s commitment to sustainable operation. Seventy-two percent of baby boomers expect the companies they deal with to operate sustainably, while 85% of their children (those millennials who will have to help their parents make decisions) insist on it. When it comes to boosting occupancy and the revenue that goes with it – particularly among private payers – sustainability is the new must-have amenity.

The term “sustainability” may still conjure images of tree-hugging activists. The image it should bring to mind, especially in skilled nursing and long-term care facilities, is one of the modern, successful executive who’s discovered that what’s good for the earth is even better for business.

Healthcare Finance
McKnights: Sustainability Strategies for Healthcare Facilities
Whitney Center: Senior Living Facilities Cut Costs with Energy Efficiency
SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com: Care Homes Sustainability
High Profile: Maintaining the Momentum in Sustainable Healthcare Facilities
wpr.org: Waste is the Norm in US Hospitals, Nursing Homes
BizTimes: The nursing home funding crisis
PSQH: Pharmaceutical waste: is your facility at risk?
Nielsen: Evolution of the Sustainability Mindset
WPR: Waste is the norm in U.S. hospitals, nursing home