By Steve Bergstrom
Poor air quality affects everyone. It is especially hard on children, elderly and those with asthma, lung disease, cardiovascular disease and risk of stroke. Also, research is showing a strong connection between poor air quality and developmental issues with the fetus, increased respiratory infections, and neurologic conditions. One-third of Utah’s population is either 18 and younger or 65 and older; about 230,000 have asthma; and nearly 500,000 have cardiovascular disease.
Tailpipe emissions are a key contributor to our poor air quality. They present real health consequences for the groups I mentioned. The connection between health, transportation and business practices is becoming clearer every day. Being a health care company doesn’t give Intermountain Healthcare a pass.
Intermountain Healthcare’s mission is, Helping People Live the Healthiest Lives Possible. This mission compels us to be good environmental stewards as we perform our duties as caregivers. In our quest is to become a model health care system, we must ensure our operations and business practices are as efficient as possible. We work to cause the fewest negative impacts to our patients, caregivers and communities.
Intermountain has a large workforce of caregivers (all of our employees are called caregivers). These caregivers work in hospitals, clinics, Home Care, Courier and Distribution Services. We have locations across the state of Utah. Our fleet of vehicles and caregivers drive countless mile each day. We know those miles equal tailpipe emissions. The reality is that vehicle miles are needed to move our caregivers, equipment, supplies, pharmaceuticals, and specimens around our system and to our patients. We are committed to conducting our business in the most efficient and responsible manner possible. Here are some of the things we are doing, what we have planned, and how our transportation and transit programs are changing.
To be as efficient as possible, our fleet combines pick up as well as delivery of products and equipment, specimens, and linens.
- All fleet vehicles are equipped with a monitoring device that records safety practices, vehicle idling, behaviors, and efficient routing. All drivers are reviewed and are accountable for the measurements recorded. Specific safety, idling and behavior guidelines as well as key performance indicators are in place.
- A strategic goal is to convert 80 percent of our fleet to low-emission or alternative-fuel vehicles by 2025. We are currently at 13 percent. We are testing many alternative fuel models for capability to perform our needed tasks.
- Constant review of routes and schedules are conducted to find efficiencies with deliveries.
Movement of our caregivers to and from their homes, and to work related destinations provides many challenges and opportunities.
- Intermountain provides a discounted UTA program for caregivers. Ridership is at 8 percent of our total caregivers.
- Intermountain offers Transit Passes that can be checked out by our caregivers who aren’t regular riders for meetings or travel to our other locations.
- We have put together a program that allows some of our caregivers to work from home on a regular or as-needed basis. There are currently more 300 positions doing this. We are exploring how we might do more of this when the air quality index is high for pollutants. This is only available for those not involved in direct patient care.
- Telehealth and related programs allow us to connect with our patients via a number of electronic and communication methods.
- WebEx, Skype, and Tele-presence are highly encouraged for all meetings whenever possible. We are beginning to track the mileage impact of this effort.
- We have Installed Electric Vehicle charging stations on our campuses. We have 12 chargers with plans for 12 more by the end of 2018.
- Active transportation is encouraged for the health benefit and the emission reduction. Bicycle storage and showers are available at most of our campuses.
- Van-share and carpooling are available at our large facilities.
We are constantly looking for ways to improve our transportation and transit issues. Some of the solutions require budgeting and planning while others are still being developed. A great way to improve is to join a network of other businesses and operations to share ideas, resources and solutions. DAQ has been presenting webinar workshops that allow us to share and learn about transportation and transit ideas and solutions. Click here learn more about these webinars.
Steven has been with Intermountain Healthcare for over 33 years with experience in the Supply Chain, environmental preferred purchasing, vendor certification/relations, and inventory management. He was promoted to Director of Sustainability for Intermountain Healthcare in 2010. He has served on the board of Utah Recycling Alliance, Health Care Climate Council, a member of Practice Greenhealth, a member of the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce- Clean Air, Water, and Natural Resource Business Council, and has served on several energy and air quality committees for the State of Utah. He has recent presentations at Greenbuild 2016 International Expo and Conference, Healthcare Design Expo and Conference, Modern Healthcare Healthcare Transformation Summit, and Practice Greenhealth CleanMed 2017.