2023 HCD Conference Preview: Population Health & Safety: A Look Through the Environmental Lens

The 2023 HCD Conference in October will offer a variety of educational sessions. In this Q&A, HOK speakers Kathleen Schwartz and Vlad Torskiy discuss new sustainability strategies and initiatives and how they will impact facility planning and design.

He Healthcare Design Conference + Exhibition 2023 will be held November 4-7 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. The annual event will offer a variety of keynote and breakout sessions on a variety of topics.

Sanitary design offers a preview of some of the upcoming educational sessions in a series of Q&As with speakers, sharing what they plan to discuss and the key points they plan to deliver to attendees.

Session: “Health and safety of the population: a look through the environmental lens”

Speakers: Kathleen Schwartz, Senior Healthcare Consultant, hokand Vlad Torskiy, Director, Regional Healthcare Lead, HOK

This session aims to help attendees understand the environmental impact of the healthcare industry and the long-term negative impacts if action is not taken. Additionally, speakers will discuss the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sustainability strategy, new requirements from the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), and how they relate to the future design of medical care. The presentation will share ideas for incorporating environmental sustainability efforts without impacting patient health and safety, as well as understanding current policymaking initiatives from environmental, social and governance perspectives.

Sanitary design: What is driving changes in the conversation about resilience and sustainability in the healthcare sector?

Photo credit: Eugene Kaydanovsky.

Vlad Torsky: Sustainability, as it is known by the architecture-engineering (AE) industry, has transformed in recent years into a much larger and broader category: Environment, which in turn is part of the implementation strategy. governmental ESG (environmental, social and governance).

Specifically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established a new department, the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), which monitors commitments toward emissions reductions and climate resilience in the medical attention. Other developments include the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) changes to its Conditions of Participation requirements to include environmental policies and guidelines, while in September, the Joint Commission (TJC) introduced a Sustainable Healthcare Certification for hospitals and health systems.

These executive branch agencies are now actively involved in the environmental and sustainability aspects of healthcare delivery and the EA industry must become intimately familiar with their requirements to advise clients at all stages of the planning, design and construction process.

What should be a priority for healthcare organizations?

Kathleen Schwartz

Photo courtesy of HOK

Torskiy and Kathleen Schwartz: The impact of new strategies, policies and guidelines on the level of financing, reimbursement and investment of healthcare organizations.

As an enforcement mechanism, any new requirement is typically translated into a set of standardized compliance measures (similar to pay-for-performance quality of care measures). Compliance versus non-compliance may result in reduced reimbursement levels, revocation of certifications, and financial penalties or grant awards.

OCCHE states that in the healthcare space “despite a growing recognition of the health problems associated with climate change and the need for action, many organizations, and particularly those serving the most vulnerable communities, struggle to make investments in sustainability and resilience due to insufficient financing. ”. These financial risks have a ripple effect not only on healthcare delivery but on the entire healthcare industry, including architecture, engineering, transportation, equipment, supply chain, waste, etc.

What are the challenges healthcare organizations face when trying to incorporate environmental sustainability efforts and how can they overcome them?

Torsky: The newly introduced TJC certification focuses on four fields of environmental sustainability implementation: transportation, construction and energy use, anesthetic gases and waste. Using anesthetic gases as an example, these gases can be divided into two categories: volatile and non-volatile. Of the volatile category, nitrous oxide and desflurane receive the most attention from the TJC and other organizations concerned about greenhouse gas emissions.

Both gases have a direct impact on the quality of patient care/life and hospital building infrastructure/systems. The average use of desflurane in a surgical case is equivalent to driving 198 miles, while nitrous oxide has 300 times the warming power of carbon dioxide. Although desflurane can be substituted for sevoflurane, there is no comparable and safe substitute for nitrous oxide.

The ideas and solutions for “puzzle solving” are extensive and we will review them as part of the presentation.

What takeaways from your session do you hope attendees take away?

Schwartz: Awareness is the main conclusion. Firstly, we need the agri-food industry to understand ESG criteria and that they are much more important than sustainability. Architects and engineers must understand the impact of ESG on healthcare operations and functionality, the economics of social ESG factors, and governance implications. All of the above will become a critical element of planning and design in the future.

Second, public health managers must understand what they are committing to. They must bring understanding and knowledge to your entire institution, as frontline staff and staff in the field will be critical to the success or failure of compliance and implementation of requirements, policies and guidelines.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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