Todd L. Sack, MD, shares practice management tips for going green at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) 2023 Annual Scientific Meeting.
Dermatology Times spoke with Todd L. Sack, MD, ahead of his practice management talk on the benefits—including financial benefits—of going green and embracing sustainability. .
A gastroenterologist and hepatologist in private practice, Sack is also editor of MyGreenDoctor.org, a free, not-for-profit service owned by the Florida Medical Association and supported organizations like the World Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology.
"Physicians and office managers would like to engage on environmental sustainability and climate change, but really have no idea how to get started.
"Practices and clinicians can begin by making a commitment to do this—to make sustainability one of the core values of your practice. And part of that commitment is to say, ‘We're going to spend 5 minutes a month on environmental sustainability.’
Once they have committed to go green they can plan to make small steady changes in how the practice is managed. Over time, that adds up to real improvements and improvement in the health of the practice and potentially a more healthy community. It really begins with a commitment that we're going to, as a practice, go green. We're going to make sustainability a core principle, just as important as giving high quality health care or being respectful of everybody in the practice, or abiding by HIPAA requirements; sustainability is going to be one of our core values.
"And once we've done that, then we start making small set of changes by having 5 minutes of sustainability to the business meetings of the practice. So if your clinic meets once a month, everybody in the room to talk about business issues, like complaints, EHR scheduling, vacations, and things we need—supplies we need. And we add 5 minutes of environmental sustainability.
"All practices can save money and decrease their greenhouse gas footprint, and decrease the resulting air pollutants. By really thinking about energy about adjusting thermostats properly, turning off unneeded equipment, buying the least expensive energy star rated appliances, those kind of things. Typically, a practice can save about $1000 per doctor per year just by being careful and following pretty standard guidelines on saving energy.
"There's more than one can do with energy: one can buy low energy from their utility. This year is a spectacular year to take advantage of that $7500 tax credit. So folks should take advantage of the full Inflation Reduction Act tax credit.
"It begins with recycling; recycling doesn't always save much in terms of resources, but it's really setting the right example for your patients. And when your patients see that you're recycling your paper, they are going to start to follow your example. So set a good example for your patients by recycling, reusing, purchasing things that aren't necessarily purchased. Get Styrofoam out of your practice, things like that.
"Another important topic is patient education. And I provide links to lots and lots of educational resources and other ways that we can help share ideas with our patients. We talk about food choices, healthy foods from the office. We switch to the patient, healthy foods for the environment and ways to teach these ideas to the patients. We're talking about transportation choices, safer use of chemicals, and on and on.
"What patients see in the office really matters. Nurses and doctors and pharmacists are always in the top 5 of the most respected professions and people in any community, any culture around the world. So we set a good example by recycling wisely, using chemicals wisely. Our patients notice that. When they see that we have electric and low energy vehicles in the parking lot, they notice that as well. So we really have the ability to set an example.
"But when patients take home these ideas, there's really an ability to impact their activities at home. For example, the chemicals used in the home. Choices of cleaning products—choice of soaps can make a really big difference in the health of our patients. That's particularly true of allergy patients.
"And by the way, patients love to come to an office that's a green office. They love seeing that we're recycling. They love seeing that we're using energy wisely. I suspect that this kind of confidence that instills in the patient for their health professionals leads to better adherence. They listen to what we tell them about allergy because they have confidence that we're thinking about their broad interest.
"The American Academy of Dermatology is really out in front ahead of most professional societies and talking to their members about sustainability. The My Green Doctor program is offered for free by the American Academy of Dermatology to its members as a membership benefit. The benefit is worth several thousand dollars a year. You can register at mygreendoctor.org (there is also a version in Spanish) and use the discount code MGDAAD to use the free resource.
"Put 5 minutes of sustainability on every agenda of your weekly or monthly business meetings and just make those small, steady improvements and over time, you're going to be very proud and your patients are going to be excited to see the progress. I think you'll look and look back in 6 months and be really delighted you did so."
Transcript edited for style and length.
Do you have a green practice? Do you have successful practice management tips to share with colleagues? Email us at DTEditor@mmhgroup.com.
Sack TL. The GREEN Practice. Presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 2023 Annual Scientific Meeting. November 10-13, 2023; Anaheim, CA.