The Joint Commission proposes standard to tackle hospital impact on climate change

by A.J. Plunkett (

Hospitals may soon have to measure energy use, fleet vehicle gas consumption, solid waste disposal, and other measures under proposed climate change standards by The Joint Commission (TJC), which puts responsibility not only on leadership but also “clinical and facility representatives.”

“Healthcare organizations can no longer ignore their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions,” said TJC in a statement seeking comment on a new Leadership standard currently under field review.

“Hospitals consume energy (such as electricity and natural gas) and use materials (such as disposables) that contribute to increased waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Hospitals need to take action to minimize their carbon footprints as they care for patients. Hospitals can begin decarbonization activities by measuring and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions,” according to the statement.

The proposed new LD.05.01.01 would require both hospitals and critical access hospitals to appoint an individual to oversee the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions “in coordination with clinical and facility representatives.”

Hospitals would be asked to measure three or more of the following:

  • Energy use
  • Purchased energy (electricity and steam)
  • Anesthetic gas use
  • Pressurized metered dose inhaler use
  • Fleet vehicle gasoline consumption
  • Solid waste disposal to landfills or through incineration

The hospital would then have to use the measures to reduce greenhouse emissions in a written plan.

TJC is taking comment on the proposal through an online survey through May 3.

The effort to reduce hospital impact on climate change was introduced in last fall’s Executive Briefing by TJC president and CEO Jonathan B. Perlin, MD, PhD, MSHA, MACP, FACMI, who said environmental sustainability and climate change were also patient safety issues.

Perlin also told executives that TJC has signed on to the Biden administration’s decarbonization pledge with a goal of reducing the commission’s carbon footprint by 50% by 2030, with a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

Besides cost savings and reducing a hospital’s carbon footprint, Perlin urged hospital leadership to also consider how extreme temperature swings and other elements of climate change can impact the health of their patient population.

Hospitals are also being encouraged to include extreme heat and cold as part of their required hazard vulnerability assessments.

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