Written by Olive Dempsey, Sustainability Consultant, Energy and Environmental Sustainability Team, LMFM

What does it take to save 53,477 gallons of water, prevent nine tons of trees from being harvested and reduce carbon emissions equivalent to driving 14,249 miles per year?

As found by Queenie Lai, clinical program manager for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Royal Columbian Hospital (RCH), it only takes a few simple and but very persistent questions.

When Lai joined the NICU six years ago, she immediately noticed the large volume of daily lab report printouts that no one seemed to use. Every week she watched the printer spit out up to 2,250 sheets of paper that were either filed or sent to confidential shredding.

Lai found it painful to see so much waste, and difficult to know how she could change it. She started by asking herself and her colleagues one simple question: “What is the value of these reports?”

She went to each of the department’s five physicians and then to the site medical director to learn if they had any concerns with eliminating the printouts. With each conversation, it became clear that these reports served no clinical purpose and that electronic medical records (EMR) provided a better view of a patient’s history.

When she connected with Nafisa Ali, laboratory site supervisor, she found a powerful ally. Ali, a long-time participant in the Green+Leaders program, knew who could help make the change happen. Adeline Yee, a regional laboratory information systems coordinator, became the liaison between the two departments to handle the technical aspects of the transition, once all the approvals were in place.

"We love the new system,” says Lai. The NICU unit clerk no longer has to sort and file printouts each day; money is saved on paper and toner costs; and both Ali and Lai are looking to make similar changes elsewhere.

According to Yee, wards across Fraser Health are requesting that printed reports be discontinued, as staff prefer to review results in EMR. “This has shown us,” says Ali, “that reducing our carbon footprint can go hand-in-hand with providing excellent patient care.”

Looking to discontinue cumulative and broadcasted lab reports at your location?


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