Many physicians are trying to make their practices greener. Some are spurred on by their personal beliefs, while others see an opportunity to market to green-minded patients. Still others just realize that saving environmental resources often saves money! Whatever the motivation, going green can be a big challenge for medical practices, since they rely heavily on sterile disposables, use lots of electrical devices, and often have voluminous paperwork. What’s more, protecting the environment must never sacrifice patient care or safety. By helping your green-motivated clients find safe and easy ways to conserve resources, you’ll help them solve a thorny problem – and strengthen your relationships with them.

Armed with glossy leave-behinds, direct mail and single-use samples, medical sales reps can sometimes inadvertently offend environmentally conscious physician clients. So the first step to helping your clients go green is to ‘do no harm’ yourself. Offer electronic versions of product information for those doctors who prefer paperless, and use e-mail newsletters instead of direct mail. 

Here are a few other areas in which you can help your environmentally conscious physician clients:

  • Drug samples are a mixed blessing for green practices. They can be a huge help to physicians treating lower income patients, but they add a lot of extra packaging to landfills. Explore whether you can offer samples in bulk, instead of individual doses. 
  • Inappropriate drug disposal – especially down sinks and toilets – is creating a growing problem of contaminated water. Offer to collect expired and excess medication from your clients’ offices for proper disposal. If your clients in turn could encourage their patients to return unused meds instead of dumping them, your effort could make a big local impact. (Plus, you’ll have a good reason to drop in for regular visits.)
  • EHR is not just about government subsidies. If you’re selling technology that reduces paper use, that helps save trees, too. Help your physicians by quantifying these benefits for them – they can then promote the environmental impact of their technology investment to their patients.  (Don’t forget, e-prescribing saves paper, too!) You can even help your physicians promote their green technology with stickers and magnets they can use in their offices (“Our EHR saves you time – and saves trees!  Ask us about it.”)
  • Spread the word about used equipment. Local reps often know about physicians who are planning to retire or move before almost anyone else. Such moves free up ‘gently used’ office equipment that can be purchased as a discount – helping both buyer and seller, and keeping old items out of the landfill.
  • Teach greener marketing. Internet and social media marketing allow medical practices many ways to promote themselves without using paper – and, without aggressive selling. Still, many physicians are at a loss for how to use these powerful communication tools. Sponsor a free presentation (or even a short series) on Internet marketing to show your physician clients how to promote themselves more effectively while saving paper – and marketing dollars.
  • If you gift go greener. Considering branded tchotchkes as a gift for your clients? Plants make great gifts, too – they’re inexpensive, should last a long time, and are believed to improve indoor air quality. Check your company’s policies before giving. Many organizations limit or prohibit gift giving to avoid ethical pitfalls or any perception of impropriety.
  • Share success stories. Physicians who are concerned about the workability of green initiatives in a medical office will be encouraged to hear about how other doctors implemented energy savings programs or reduced wasted without sacrificing quality of care. Add a quarterly piece to your e-mail newsletter or blog spotlighting green tips from real doctors. Coordinate a presentation on green medical offices for several practices in your area – you’ll provide the physicians with a great networking opportunity along with valuable information.

We can expect to see more medical professionals getting on board with green initiatives and taking a more conscientious approach to purchasing and disposing of products. In this tough economy buyers will be looking at both the costs of materials and prudent use of products to reduce waste. Whatever you can do to support this effort will get their attention and be appreciated. 

Judy Capko is a healthcare consultant, speaker and author of the popular books; Secrets of the Best Run Practice, 2006 and Take Back Time: Bringing time management to medicine, 2008. She is a popular speaker at national and regional conferences.  Judy is the owner of Capko & Company,, and is based in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

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