ASHE 2019: Healthcare Industry Trends and Takeaways

How are twenty-first century hospitals achieving next-level patient care?

According to the industry’s premier event, the ASHE Annual Conference and Technical Exhibition, trailblazing healthcare facilities cement their leadership in three key areas: technology and innovation, sustainability and community partnership, and cost-effectiveness.

Decision makers who are critical to optimizing the healthcare environment in hospitals across the country gathered at ASHE this week to explore industry challenges and determine the most powerful avenues of growth.

Investing in Innovative Technologies and Tools

The first theme discussed at ASHE was approaching facility design and operation through a lens of innovation. Many speakers talked about adopting the latest technologies and tools to ultimately enhance patient experience.

For example, James Prince of Medxcel Facilities Management spoke on a panel about investing in tech that enables energy efficiency and how this has helped Ascension Health improve patient comfort. He encouraged leaders to think about what these investments “mean for the health of your facility and those who you serve.”

For Ascension, cost savings from energy investments has had the equivalent impact of $3.6 billion in annual patient revenue, while intangible benefits such as brighter, softer exterior lighting that has improved public safety and patient experience.

Beyond this, many leaders emphasized the fundamental importance of bolstering hospital resilience. With extreme weather events such as droughts, forest fires, and storms doubling over the past four decades and other disasters like floods even quadrupling, healthcare resiliency is becoming a top priority.

Communities turn to hospitals in times of emergency for shelter and safety, so technologies that deliver the highest level of performance, reliability, and uninterrupted operations are essential to minimizing negative impacts on patients and staff.

For many hospitals, this means deploying an onsite microgrid system to ensure always-on power for critical buildings, operations, and services. A panel on new technologies for healthcare power highlighted the increasing use of microgrids as a means to mitigate risk, especially as a result of the looming uncertainty of wildfires and pre-emptive power shutoffs across the state of California.

Committing to Environmental Stewardship and Community Partnership

It has been estimated that if considered as a separate country, the U.S. healthcare system would be the seventh-largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world. As of 2017, hospitals emitted 8 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, produced 4.67 million tons of waste, and used 7 percent of the U.S. commercial water supply.

Recognizing the broader implications of these environmental impacts, leading healthcare facilities are aggressively investing in sustainable operations. As Seth Baruch of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals put it succinctly during a panel on hospital resilience, Kaiser’s sustainability initiatives enjoy support from the board on down because “we can measure, we know, that climate change is having a tangible, negative impact on the health of our 12-plus million members.”

ASHE 2019 Panel - Seth Baruch
Seth Baruch, National Director, Energy & Utilities, National Facilities Services, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals speaking on the Hospitals Investing in Resilience: Protecting Lives and Margins Panel at ASHE Annual Conference and Technical Exhibition, 2019

The greenest hospitals in the country are embracing sustainable practices such as becoming LEED certified, implementing waste reduction initiatives, and installing renewable or energy-efficient power sources like solar with battery storage or fuel cells. With programs like these put into place, hospitals can improve both community health as well as patient well-being.

What’s more, these programs can actually enhance their business. Sustainability matters to consumers, and hospitals are no exception. In a 2017 study on corporate social responsibility, 88% of consumers said they would be more loyal to a company that supports environmental issues and 92% said they would be more likely to trust a company that supports environmental causes.

By reducing emissions, eliminating harmful air pollutants, implementing energy-efficient technologies, and lowering waste, leading healthcare facilities are solidifying their roles as community partners and leaders – living out a holistic, patient-focused approach to care that ultimately builds a healthier community and stronger business.

Achieving the Highest Level of Cost-Effectiveness

Leadership in technology and sustainability also tends to establish leadership in the area of patient care value.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, hospitals in the U.S. spend approximately $8.3 billion on energy costs each year, with utility bills making up an average of 1.4 percent of operating revenue. For an individual 200,000 square foot, 50-bed facility, that means spending $13,600 per bed on energy costs.

By implementing energy-efficient technologies and programs, hospitals can significantly lower this spend and reallocate resources to patient care. In fact, ASHE reports its Energy to Care Treasure Hunt, a two-day post-conference event, has been so successful that it’s helped hospitals find over $500,000 in annual energy savings opportunities for participating facilities.

In turn, reducing energy-related costs lowers the total cost of patient care, which oftentimes means further investment in cutting-edge technologies or sustainability programs.

A “No Compromise” Approach for Hospitals

At ASHE, I heard healthcare leaders talk about the importance of these three pillars of leadership, but also the tradeoffs they face each time they make decisions about optimizing their facilities.

When it comes to energy, facility managers expressed they too often have to choose some combination of innovation, affordability, sustainability, and reliability. Said one panelist, “There is no silver bullet.”

But twenty-first century hospitals shouldn’t have to decide between implementing affordable energy solutions, and protecting the health of the environment and their communities.

That’s why Bloom Energy is passionate about providing cost-effective, clean, onsite, no compromise power for hospitals.

Powering some of the most prominent health care facilities across the country, like Kaiser Permanente, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and Partners HealthCare, Bloom’s fuel cell technology is a proven energy solution the healthcare sector needs – it’s the ideal balance of affordability, resiliency, and reduced carbon footprint.

For instance, a five-megawatt Bloom Energy solution installed at a California healthcare facility would reduce carbon emissions by millions of pounds and reduce criteria air pollutants by tens of thousands of pounds each year. This means fewer cases of respiratory symptoms and lower incidents of asthma exacerbation in the facility’s surrounding community.

With today’s uncertainties in the face of extreme weather events, hospitals must be able to operate 24/7, which demands an energy solution that delivers reliably at all hours of the day. Bloom is a trusted partner in the industry, with reliable and resilient power solutions deployed at 45 healthcare locations.

And it’s not just about power resiliency, it’s about economic resiliency. The five-megawatt deployment could provide $666,000 savings in energy costs annually for the facility. A predictable and cost-effective solution subsequently enables hospitals to further invest in innovation and patient care.

At ASHE, industry leaders advocated for multifaceted solutions. Bloom is proud to offer the no compromise energy platform that leading hospitals and healthcare facilities are seeking.