Sustainable Scorecard to Be Used to Help Kaiser Permanente Evaluate Medical Products

Representation of supply chainKaiser Permanente saved $20 million last year by switching to more environmentally friendly, greener products, according to Robert Gotto, Kaiser’s executive procurement director. And, to up those savings, the company today says it will require its suppliers of  $1 billion worth of medical equipment and products a year to provide environmental data.

The “Sustainability Scorecard”

The Sustainability Scorecard is the first of its kind in health care, according to the company. It’s a spreadsheet that suppliers fill out for each of their products, and it looks at 10 criteria. Six of those criteria relate to specific chemicals, and the other four involve the recycled content of product and primary and secondary processing, explains Gotto.

What the Sustainability Scorecard measures

A company enters all its products into the scorecard and then assigns a 0 or a 1 to each product based on whether that product is above a certain threshold. For instance, di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, is used in a wide array of medical catheters and tubing. But the chemical has shown adverse effects on the development of the male reproductive system in young laboratory animals, and there is some concern this could also affect some human patients.  So, one question on Kaiser Permanente’s scorecard is “Does the product contain DEHP?”

Another question is far broader. It asks whether the product contains any chemicals included on the 21-page list produced each year under California’s Proposition 65.

If the answer is “no,” the vendor enters a 0; if the answer is “yes,” it is scored 1. The lower-scored products are the more environmentally friendly. The process “relies on suppliers providing accurate and honest information,” Gotto notes.

Potential to affect $10 billion in annual medical products purchases

Greening the supply chain is not a new concept. Walmart’s doing it.  So are IBM and Excelon.

But, there has been little movement in the health care industry to adopt similar practices. Kaiser Permanente is about to change that.

The organization has rolled out the scorecard program with Broadlane, KP’s key supply chain partner for $1 billion worth of products specific to KP.  “They supported us in including this in our procurement process,” says Gotto,

More importantly? “Broadlane has $10 billion worth of business with other clients,” Gotto explains.  And KP is working with Broadlane to try and roll the program out to those organizations.  “There is strong movement forward,” he says.

How the scorecard is used

The results of all Sustainability Scorecards are mapped to actual product use and from that KP calculates the score for each vendor.

More than 30 groups of specialty clinicians at Kaiser Permanente are responsible for selecting KP products. “This score factors into clinicians’ decisions—along with product performance and cost,” Gotto says.  “It impacts what contract we go with because there are many situations where there are comparably performing products at comparable prices in the marketplace and this sustainability score can be a differentiator. “

Gotto believes the scorecard is a powerful tool. “It gives you detailed product information at the point when our clinicians are evaluating products and they have the detailed information to make informed decisions.”  This is a fundamental shift from the prior decision-making process where knowledge of packaging, chemical ingredients and environmentally friendly processes were not always known.

KP in general

Kaiser Permanente has embraced green building with its Modesto Medical Building. It’s also become 95% mercury-free and uses reusable patient gowns and linens rather than disposable products. The organization continues to work “to find environmentally friendly products, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and inform public policy to protect the health and safety of our workforce and members alike,” says Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser Permanente’s vice president for workplace safety and environmental stewardship officer. “With our Sustainability Scorecard, we are strengthening the link between sustainability and health.”

Jennifer Hicks is a freelance journalist and the lead editor of SmartBrief on Sustainability, a free daily e-newsletter that offers a round up of the day's most important news for businesses and consumers interested in sustainability issues. Her work has appeared on several health, business and political Web sites.