RESTON, Va. — Practice Greenhealth opened the doors of the Virtual Green Operating Room, a newly-created digital world that allows healthcare practitioners to learn about how the environmental impacts of operating rooms can be dramatically reduced.
Inside the Virtual Green OR, participants can view and learn about a variety of technologies, equipment and materials that reduce energy and water use and reduce impact on the environment and human health. In addition to the Green OR, Practice Greenhealth’s virtual world includes an auditorium for webinars and group meetings, providing opportunities for interactive training, real-time collaboration and the sharing of best practices.
“We have created a virtual world that allows us to teach and show different aspects of a green operating room, and that can be viewed and used by participants all around the world at the same time,” said Laura Wenger, executive director of Practice Greenhealth. “This world even provides opportunities for learning, events and social networking among healthcare practitioners, all with just a few computer strokes.”
The Virtual Green OR was modeled on many of the computer-based simulated environments used in computer games. It was designed to demonstrate the concrete ways hospitals can reduce operating room impacts and costs, which are significant.
Hospitals overall are high users of energy, and operating rooms are by far the largest users of that energy. They are also a major consumer of resources and staff hours, using as much as 56 percent of a hospital’s total budget. In addition, operating rooms produce a disproportionate amount of waste—between 20 and 30 percent of a hospital’s total waste volume. Much of the nation’s operating room waste is disposed of as regulated medical waste, which costs between 10 and 15 times more in disposal fees than regular waste.
In addition, most operating room supplies are thrown out after one use or even after being opened but not used, even though reuse may be an option.
The Virtual Green OR is one part of the Greening the OR ™ Initiative, introduced by Practice Greenhealth in 2010. The initiative includes data analysis, research evaluation and the compiling of best practices to create information on a range of successful interventions for greener, more efficient operating rooms. These interventions include the reduction and segregation of regulated medical waste, reusable canister fluid management systems, single-use device reprocessing and OR kit reformulation, reusable surgical gowns and basins and medical plastics recycling.