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Most clinicians want hospitals to act on climate change. Some are doing more than others.


A Commonwealth Fund survey shows strong support for reducing waste and emissions. Hospitals and health systems have been under growing pressure to reduce their environmental impact.

Most clinicians say they want to see their hospitals and health systems tackling climate change, according to a recent survey from the Commonwealth Fund.

Image credit: ©zephyr_p - stock.adobe.com

Most clinicians say hospitals need to take action on climate change, a new Commonwealth Fund survey finds. (Image credit: ©zephyr_p - stock.adobe.com)

The survey also gauged healthcare leaders on the actions organizations are taking to deal with climate change. While it’s a priority for many organizations, some are engaging in more robust action plans than others.

In a national survey of 1,001 clinicians released this week, about 4 out of 5 clinicians (79%) said their hospitals should be engaged on climate change and they feel it’s tied to their overall mission.

For some, an organization’s action on climate change has a bearing on a clinician’s interest in a job. About 6 in 10 (62%) said a potential employer’s climate change policies would weigh on their decision to pursue a job with the organization. On that question, 15% of the surveyed clinicians said environmental policies would have a strong impact on their willingness to apply, while 47% said it would have some effect.

Clinicians with leadership responsibilities also described what their hospitals and health systems are doing on climate change.

Most organizations are taking steps to develop emergency plans to deal with climate-related events, including stronger hurricanes, wildfires and heat waves. Roughly 7 out of 10 leaders (71%) said they were developing such plans, while 15% said they weren’t but planned to do so within the next one to three years.

A little more than one-third (36%) said they were integrating plans to reduce emission as part of their overall strategic planning, with an additional 27% saying they will take that step within the next three years.

About 4 in 10 (41%) say they are appointing leaders such as chief sustainability officers or creating teams to deal with climate changes, while another 24% say they will do so within the next three years.

A small number of leaders (16%) say their hospitals or health systems are tying executive compensation to goals on climate change, but another 22% say their organizations plan to in the next three years.

Hospitals and health systems have faced growing pressure to address their environmental impact. The healthcare industry is responsible for more than 8% of America’s carbon emissions, federal officials say.

President Biden’s administration has made reducing emissions a key priority, and federal officials have pushed for health systems to reduce waste and emissions. Dozens of hospitals and health systems have committed to helping reach the president’s targets on reducing emissions.

Mark Howell, director of policy and patient safety for the American Hospital Association, told Chief Healthcare Executive® last April that more health systems are developing concrete plans on sustainability. “There’s been a significant uptick in not only interest but in action related to the work,” Howell said.

The Joint Commission has recently launched a voluntary certification program to help hospitals improve their efforts to reduce pollution and waste.

Healthcare leaders have noted that younger staff are especially passionate about climate change, and hospitals and health systems should utilize those individuals to assist with efforts to reduce waste and emissions.

Healthcare leaders working on sustainability also point to another potential benefit of reducing waste. Such efforts can save hospitals money, at a time when many organizations continue to face financial pressures.

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